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10 Keys For Creating a Successful iOS App Design

A whopping 400,000 apps—or 60 percent of all apps—in the App Store have never been downloaded. Not even once. 

And many apps that are downloaded don’t fare much better; over 75 percent of apps that are downloaded are only opened once. With those statistics, investing time and resources into iOS app design for your small business may feel like a lost cause.

Why Even Build an App?

The good news? Americans spend over two hours a day on average on their phones, the majority of which is spent on apps.

By developing an app for your small business, you’ll reach the people who are already hanging out on their phones. Every small business needs an app, and the benefits far outweigh the initial investment.

But if you want your app actually succeed, people need to download and use it. And the first step to making that a possibility is iOS app design. With a well-designed app, you’ll stand out from your competition and build customer loyalty; a poorly designed app will waste your time, money, and resources.

Read on to learn the ten essential elements of successful iOS app design so your app can blow your users away.

Small Business iOS App Design Essentials

You may not think much about design when it is good, but when it’s bad it becomes glaringly obvious. This is especially true when bad design compromises the user experience. Before you get into mobile app development, you need to focus on design.

Good design will draw people in, build brand authority, and establish yourself as a professional in your field. Bad iOS app design will frustrate and confuse customers, potentially scaring them into the open arms of your competitors.

With this in mind, here are 10 key elements of iOS app design. We find that user experience (UX) is the most important part of app design, so we’ve ordered them based on the impact they have on UX, from greatest to least.

1. Research and Discovery

This isn’t a design step per se, yet it is arguably the most important part of the entire design process. During research and discovery, you dig deep to clarify the goal of your app and the target market it needs to appeal to. From there, you can begin building the design of the app.

If you don’t already have one, build a user persona before beginning the design process. Who is your ideal customer? What are their pain points? What interests them? 

Essentially, you need to figure out what your target customer is looking for so that you can appeal to that audience. And you need to figure out what the goals of the app are so that you can set out to accomplish them.

This phase is often tempting to skip because digging into the research doesn’t feel as exciting as choosing colors and fonts. But don’t give in to this temptation. With research comes clarity that will be the foundation for the rest of the design process, and will actually make figuring out how to design an iOS app that fits your needs much easier.

2. Information Structure

Once you know the target market for your app, you’ll want to figure out how to layout the main elements of the app. Come up with the navigation logic that will guide the rest of the design. Figure out the structure for how users will get from point A to point B.

Here are some general rules of thumb to follow when coming up with the navigation structure:

  • People should always know where they are at in your app and how to get to the next place they want to go
  • People shouldn’t have to work too hard to get to where they want to go, so minimize the number of clicks it takes to get from one place to another
  • When it comes to navigation, simple and intuitive is best; add creativity in other aspects of the design, but it is best not to reinvent the wheel here

It can be helpful to draw out a visual map of the page structure you will use in your app. With a logical navigation structure, users should have no trouble finding what they are looking for in the app. This will help them avoid becoming frustrated that they can’t find the information or resources that they need.

3. Page Layout

Once you have an idea of the overall structure and goals of your app, you can begin to move on to the more creative aspects of iOS app design. We will start with the page layout. 

The main thing to remember here is that your app should work well across devices, meaning it needs to be responsive to screen sizes. You shouldn’t have to zoom in or out or scroll horizontally to view important information. As a general rule of thumb, more important items should go in the upper half of the screen as that is where the user’s eye will go first.

If at all possible, figure out how to get your design to support both portrait and landscape orientations. However, this shouldn’t mean looking like an entirely different app; you want your users to have a consistent experience in your app, regardless of screen size or orientation, so make design decisions accordingly.

4. Navigation and Touch Accessibility

When designing your app, you need to keep accessibility in mind.

Designing for touch interfaces is different from designing for desktop computers because the pages will be navigated differently. Rather than a 2 mm mouse cursor, touch devices use finger navigation. This means that your design decisions need to function well in this environment.

Specifically, any controls, buttons, or links that you use need to be larger to support touch gestures. A general rule is that clickable elements should be no smaller than 44 pixels by 44 pixels. This ensures that they are easy to click on mobile devices.

You should also consider thumb movement in your design. There is a range of motion that is comfortable for users, so try to avoid placing important links in awkward positions. 

5. Design Elements for Touch Gestures

Beyond general links and buttons, your entire app design should support touch gestures. UI elements that are designed for touch are much more pleasant to use. 

At this point, users expect all websites to function well on their mobile devices, and if they don’t they will judge the site for being technologically behind. There is still a bit of leeway with regular websites, though; not so with apps. Since apps are built specifically for use on phones, there is no excuse for the design to not function seamlessly.

Apple devices use a lot of controls that iOS users are already accustomed to. As much as possible, opt to use these elements as they are intuitive and comfortable for the users.

For example, if part of your app will use survey-like questions, don’t make users try to select a tiny button for multiple-choice options. Instead, use pickers. Or if there is a number input, have the proper keyboard display; nobody wants to type a phone number on a full QWERTY keyboard.

Simple design adjustments like these can make a huge difference in user’s enjoyment of your small business app. They may not notice them much, but they will definitely notice if you neglect these simple design tweaks.

6. Alignment 

With the major design portion out of the way, we are now getting into the more nuanced portion of designing an iOS app. One key thing to consider is alignment.

The way you align elements on a page helps establish a visual hierarchy so you can communicate the information well. Indentation can show how content is related, and users will be able to see what is most important. Plus, keeping everything aligned makes your design look clean and professional.

Overall, alignment is key to a clear design.

7. Typography

Another key element for iOS app design is typography. As a rule of thumb, fonts should be at least 11 pts for readability purposes. But your font selection goes beyond just readability.

Typography is another place you can emphasize important info. Using larger fonts or a variety of font sizes can make important information stand out. Just be careful not to use too many fonts, as this can make your design look busy and unprofessional.

Typography is also a great way to build brand recognition for app users. However, always prioritize readability over making your app look “cute.”

8. Color and Contrast

Color is a powerful communication tool that you can use to draw attention to certain areas. It is also helpful for building brand authority.

When designing, keep accessibility in mind. For every 100 people who visit your app, up to 8 of them could be colorblind. Use high contrasting colors to keep things readable. 

9. Letter Spacing

It may seem nitpicky, but letter spacing is super important for branding, readability, and overall enjoyment of your app.

Make sure there is enough space between the text. Line height, kerning, and tracking can all be adjusted to make text readable and prevent it from overlapping. You can also use them to add visual interest to your design, just avoid doing this at the expense of readability.

10. Image Resolution

Finally, let’s talk about image resolution. A well-designed app requires that images are clear and crisp. Low-quality images negatively impact user’s feelings about your brand and their entire experience. They make your design look sloppy, and could even harm your reputation.

You don’t want to ruin an otherwise good app with poor images. Avoid this by choosing high-quality, high-resolution images to display in your app. 

iOS App Design for Small Business

A well-designed app can have a great impact on your small business. But there are a lot of elements to consider for a great iOS app design. These ten tips should help you get started figuring out how to design an iOS app for your small business. 

Schedule Your iOS App Design with an Austin App Developer

App design is just the beginning—and here at Jackrabbit, we can help with your app design and development! Contact us for a free consultation to learn how we can help make your vision a reality.

Let’s Make Your Idea Reality

We deliver value to partners through mobile strategy expertise, user-centered design, and lean methodology. Take a look around our work portfolio and drop us a line, we’d love to chat.