Mobile App Design Patterns: The Ultimate Guide
The days when you could run a business with nothing more than a simple website are long gone. The report reveals that mobile apps now account for nearly half of the global Internet traffic and continue to proliferate. In such circumstances, mobile app design patterns become critical to the success of your organization.
Mobile app design patterns have the power to make or break your business, especially e-commerce because they provide the framework for user navigation. We could even argue that the app effectiveness, in general, is directly proportional to the simplicity and intuitiveness of the navigation pattern.
However, not everyone can ensure a seamless transition from the desktop-only website to the more sophisticated, multi-device solution. The study shows that approximately 25% of mobile apps are used once after installation. At the same time, users delete almost 60% of apps within 30 days according to mobile apps design tips.
It means you have to create a perfect product to attract and retain users. Choosing the right design pattern is the first and probably the most crucial step in this quest. Keep reading to see the ultimate guide to mobile app design patterns.
Think About the Purpose of Your App
Before you begin contemplating various design options, you need to think about the app you are supposed to create. Namely, the first task is to figure out the product’s real purpose because it gives you the basic guideline for the future design phases.
Your goal is to answer a few questions as accurately as possible:
- What is it that I want to achieve with this app? Sometimes the goal is to keep raising brand awareness, while other objectives could be lead generation, sales increase, customer service, etc. Each target requires more or less different design models.
- Can I anticipate all the features? While the app usually has one ultimate purpose, it is not limited to one element exclusively. On the contrary, mobile apps come with some different options, so you need to create a list of all features to plan the design pattern accordingly.
- How my competitors did it? There is no need to reinvent the wheel once again if you can see how your biggest competitors solved the problem. You don’t want to be a copycat, but if everybody in your niche is embracing the same model, it is probably the best solution.
When you answer all these questions, you’ll get a general idea about how your app should work. That way, you can delve deeper into the execution.
Why You Should Use Mobile App Design Patterns Instead of Unique Solutions
Everybody wants to feel special and unique. That’s just the way our minds work, and it often influences our business decisions, too. Creative ideas are what separate industry leaders from their less successful counterparts, but is it the truth in the field of web design?
While you should try to be different from others, this is not the battlefield on which you want to prove your creativity. The reason is simple – mobile app design patterns are much more productive than unique solutions.
Louise Page, a UX specialist at Careers Booster, says that most apps resemble each other, but adds there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that: “Businesses realize that familiar navigation patterns suit the needs of their customers, and it would be foolish to try to change their habits. After all, it would only cause a long-term sales decrease.”
To cut a long story short, we will describe four highly practical reasons to utilize mobile app design patterns:
Onboarding is a quick learning process in which users try to familiarize with your app. If you provide them with a good onboarding experience, they will stick around much longer and keep coming back to your product. But if you don’t offer simple guidance and visual tips, the app will end up deleted. Patterns make this process a lot easier, so you don’t want to run away from it.
Once your audience is hooked, the goal is to lead them through the app most smoothly and predictably. It’s a critical segment of mobile experience because of the physical limitations, which forces you to implement accessible and discoverable elements. Once again, there are already a lot of patterns to follow and ensure immaculate navigation.
Mobile app design patterns allow you to create multiple paths, so you can analyze all activities by categories and discover users’ behavioral habits. After that, it’s much easier to personalize the product and provide each user with offers that match his/her individual needs.
Multi-step actions and fill-in forms
Fill-in forms and features which require multiple actions have always been a pain point in the mobile design, but developers already found many ways to solve this issue delicately. Therefore, you don’t have to come up with your solution, but instead, use one of the existing patterns.
The Benefits of Mobile App Design Patterns
You’ve probably figured out by now that mobile app design patterns make apps better and more efficient, but we need to mention several other traits that make them so impressive. Of course, we don’t want to list all the benefits of using mobile app design patterns, but rather to highlight the three most important advantages:
- Cost reduction: You don’t have to be a business expert to come up with this conclusion – crafting a unique and exclusive app is much more expensive than choosing one of the existing patterns. The same principle applies in all industries because it’s both simpler and cheaper to use the pre-programmed products than to create your own from scratch.
- Risk elimination: The benefits of mobile app design patterns go beyond budgets and financial issues. A design element like this helps you to eliminate user experience risks. The pattern you pick is tested countless times before, so there is no need for alternative and uncertain solutions.
- Familiarity: Predictability is not always a bad thing. In the case of mobile apps, the goal is to be as predictable and accessible as possible. Patterns give users the feeling of familiarity so that they can enjoy your product without disturbances.
Basic Principles of Design
Keep in mind, however, that mobile apps and the corresponding patterns need to respect the basic principles of design. First of all, you need to take into account the peculiarities of the platform. Both Android and iOS have their own design guidelines, so you have to make sure that your app follows the latest trends in this field.
Besides that, you should once again think about the needs of your target audience. Yes, it’s good to take a tested design pattern. But don’t be afraid of making smaller adjustments if your users demand some extra features.
And thirdly, pay attention to the cross-device scalability. Although it seems irrelevant to some designers, you need to cover smartphones and tablets separately. In general, mobile phones are considered to be devices with user interfaces below 7 inches width. While tablets go above this width. Keep that in mind while crafting your mobile app.
Frequently Used Mobile App Design Patterns: 10 Examples
The best mobile app design patterns are special because they respect all the rules and principles we described above. This is precisely what makes them so popular and frequently used, so we want to present you some of these solutions. There are good examples of awesome mobile app designs. Let’s check out our top 10 picks:
The name of this pattern clearly shows its purpose. Full-screen navigation uses the entire homepage to ensure simple and intuitive user experience, taking them from generic content to the more specific pages one step at the time.
Full-screen navigation is ideal when you have to add tons of features to the single app. With this approach, you are not forcing users to face all components instantly. Instead, let them choose their path through the app.
The disadvantage of this concept is the inability to display any other options except for the navigation. However, it’s something most developers are willing to give up on if they have to design an all-encompassing mobile app.
Instead of dedicating the whole homepage to the navigation, you can use a side drawer to hide most of the orientation elements. This pattern (also known as the hamburger menu) hides the navigation bar on the left side of the screen, letting users decide when to reveal it completely.
Side drawer is excellent for secondary features – the ones that don’t repeat too often. However, it’s not the perfect pattern if your app requires instant navigation due to the low discoverability. Additionally, side drawer forces users to take an extra action, which is never a good thing to do in the digital environment.
The Skeleton Pattern
Speed is one of the most essential features in mobile app usage. Every millisecond you waste can chase users away, but the skeleton pattern solves the problem by making your product appear faster than usual.
For instance, Facebook uses this pattern because it’s able to instantly display at least some part of the content, thus successfully replacing the launch screen. That way, consumers can immediately notice a few features, which drastically increase retention. On the other hand, the skeleton is not necessary if users don’t launch your app at least once a day.
The tab bar pattern is not a novelty because we know it from the desktop design. It’s the option that enables direct access to the essential destinations, which makes it perfect for simple apps with up to five different navigation options.
When you combine it with intuitive icons and other visual effects, tab bar helps users to find their way through the app rather quickly. It also adds to the navigation consistency since every option is visible at all times. On the other side, the pattern is not very practical when you have to display more than five leads. In this case, we strongly suggest you avoid the tab bar pattern.
The one-handed usage is getting increasingly popular, particularly among developers whose products require additional simplicity. Apps with this kind of navigation pattern don’t demand hand repositioning, and users can complete all actions with one hand alone.
For instance, this is the case with music-related apps that have features like playback or browsing. Such functions usually go to the lower side of the screen because it’s easier to reach them that way, while less critical options go to the upper part of the screen.
Some developers claim that all apps are convenient for one-hand usage. However, that’s not the ultimate purpose of this pattern. On the contrary, the objective is to ensure the highest level of comfort and effortlessness because it’s the only way to encourage people to use your app single-handedly.
Floating Action Button
A floating action button is undoubtedly an interesting design option built with a purpose to inspire users to engage with your content. It’s an interactive element that changes colors and position, thus encouraging people to take the desired action.
If you already have a few app options that you know users love and exploit frequently, don’t be afraid of showing it in the form of the floating action button. For example, it could be a “Play” button on music apps because it highlights the importance of this feature.
However, it’s not suitable for all occasions. The floating action button sometimes interferes with the main content. So you might want to skip it to highlight the content.
A two-step authentication pattern is a good security booster. However, it also has the goal to ensure a more convenient sign-up procedure. Modern app designers implement tactics such as Delayed Registration to eliminate unnecessary authentication.
Namely, they allow users to browse without logging in, while the authentication is required for specific segments of the app. Since it doesn’t occur so frequently, user accounts remain safe and sound, while the quality of the browsing experience stays intact.
Most developers don’t use accelerators as the primary navigation solution, but they play a significant role in usage improvements. Namely, acceleration icons enable users to discover certain features simpler and quicker by tapping, swiping, or long-pressing.
That way, users can see more information about any given feature, change accounts, preview some elements, go back to the top of the page, and perform many other functions.
When you combine accelerators with the more traditional navigation menus, you make the perfect mix for newcomers and experienced mobile app users. But don’t let it be the only navigation solution. It can make a lot of people confused and chase them away immediately.
Priority+ is another valuable design pattern that usually serves content-heavy apps. It displays the essential features first but leaves less interesting elements behind the “More” button. It allows users to access priority content instantly, while they need to invest some additional effort to discover other features.
Most apps expand the priority list based on the screen size, which makes the pattern easily scalable. However, it does label a large portion of your content as less relevant. You probably don’t want to send this message to the users.
With the rising power of AI, it’s getting easier to introduce intelligence mobile app design patterns to your mobile apps. It makes the content look more attractive because you tailor it to fit the needs and the browsing history of each user individually. Such an approach doesn’t require too much effort, only a little bit of extra coding.
But that’s nothing compared to the benefits since you can display personalized suggestions, give orientation instructions, or send customized offers. Therefore, you should explore the existing technologies and try to find intelligence patterns that might work for your business.
Top-Notch Mobile App Design Patterns Libraries
Now that you’ve seen almost everything there is to know about mobile design. The only question left is where to find quality patterns. Luckily enough, there are hundreds of online sources where you can look for the most suitable pattern.
However, some resources are better than others, and we want to assist you in finding the best online libraries quickly. Check out the top-notch design pattern libraries here:
Pttrns is one of the most comprehensive and most popular online libraries, also known as “the mother of all design resources.” It has over 30 different categories, ranging from charts and calendars to stories and walkthroughs. It also allows you to search items by tags or release dates, which makes the process even more convenient. The basic website version is free of charge, while you need to upgrade to the premium package to access the full library of over 7.5 thousand patterns.
The user interface consists of many different elements, and there is no better place to find beautiful components than Lovely.ui. You can see it all there – various sorts of app icons, badges, buttons, gradients, and many other design elements. There is also the “Trends” section that contains the most popular categories. Lovely.ui has another interesting feature. The so-called Vision Test, which gives you the chance to test the visibility of different app elements.
Mobile Patterns is yet another all-encompassing library of app design features. It provides users with hundreds of creative solutions, but there are also a lot of familiar patterns. You can search through Mobile Patterns, check out its categories, and explore recently added elements such as popovers, calendars, or sign up flows. The whole platform is easy to use, and you can quickly find and preview each design pattern.
You know that the mobile universe is divided into two sections: iOS and Android. For this reason, there are special libraries for both of these departments. iOS Patterns has all it takes to craft a tremendous Apple-based app, so it’s the first instance for most designers in this field. To date, it offers 673 patterns in 63 applications. However, the platform is open to external contributions and keeps updating every once in a while.
If you are trying to build an Android app, this library is the place to go. Android Patterns is filled with incredible solutions that already proved to work for many developers. However, their goal is not just to copy-paste the same patterns. The team behind this library encourages people to find their style, using the current patterns “as a guide, not as a law.” They also invite users to share their ideas to make the library more comprehensive, so feel free to engage.
Developers who don’t want to take too much risk usually go to UI Patterns to find the appropriate design solution. You can see it all there – from quality patterns, over screenshots, all the way to the useful articles that explain to you how to use different design elements. According to website creators, the goal is not just to grow the library of mobile app design patterns. Rather teach people “how, when, and why such solutions should be used.”
UI Cloud claims to be “the largest user interface design database in the world.” And they might as well be right because you can search through over 46 thousand user-interface elements or browse more than 1.2 thousand kits. It encourages users to find their own patterns via the search box. Though you can always decide to go step-by-step and explore all categories individually.
Most companies want to eliminate clichés and worn out business features, but mobile app design is doing precisely the opposite. Instead of finding new ways to attract users, app designers rely on already established mobile app design patterns. These prove to be highly productive.
In this post, we gave you the ultimate guide to mobile app design patterns. We gave you the opportunity to find out more about the practical benefits of design patterns, their basic principles, standard solutions, popular libraries, and many other features.
It should be more than enough to kickstart your mobile app design projects, but let us know in comments if you need additional explanations about this topic – we would be glad to help you out!