Great design is critical to the success of your mobile app. The better the design, the more chances users will feel engaged with your app. Great design is not (only) about great aesthetics; it’s more about matching with user expectations. And to match user expectations, it’s vital to understand what happens in mobile today.

In this article, you will see modern design techniques and product design trends that help product teams create an excellent user experience.


Clutter is one of the worst enemies of good design. The more elements we place on the screen, the more complicated it becomes for the end-user. Clutter is terrible on desktop, but it’s far worse on mobile simply because we have much less real estate on mobile devices. By reducing clutter, we improve comprehension.

If you take a look at popular mobile apps today, you will see that many of them have fairly minimalist layouts. They keep content and functional elements to a minimum—the user sees only essential information or interactive objects.

When the app developers need to provide more content or features, they chunk content and use a technique of progressive disclosure to reveal more content/options after the interaction. The technique of progressive disclosure is often used in eCommerce apps. App developers separate a checkout process in a series of steps; each of them requiring user action.

Strong focus on good aesthetics

Aesthetics matter. In the book, The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman demonstrates why attractive things work better. When designers focus on polishing details, this gives a clear signal to the users that people behind the product really care about it. As a result, many products available in the AppStore and Google Play feature well-crafted layouts with nicely choreographed animation effects.

Organic OS interface by Gleb Kuznetsov✈

Bottom navigation wins

There was a long debate in the UX design community about what navigation patterns should be used for mobile apps. The two competitors were top navigation (hamburger menu and top navigation bar) and bottom navigation bar (tab bar and bottom navigation sheet). As mobile screens became larger, it was evident that bottom navigation creates a better experience for users because all navigation options are located in the thumb-friendly zone.

There are two commonly used patterns for bottom navigation—tab bar and bottom sheet. The first pattern is a de-facto standard for iOS apps. The second pattern can be found in mobile apps that mix two different types of content. For example, Apple Maps uses a map at the top area of the screen, and bottom sheet at the bottom area, so the user can swipe it up to see it in full-screen mode.

visual of apple map overlay
View of Apple map overlay. Image by thesweetsetup.

Both patterns have a significant benefit for users—they reduce the cost of interaction. Mobile app design is about ease of use, and it’s great when all-important elements can be reached with a single tap and single swipe.

Voice input and multi-modal interfaces in the spotlight

The recent progress in the natural language process made it possible to create voice-based interactions. Today 40% of adults use voice search daily. Industry giants like Apple and Google bake voice input into the core of the products they create. According to Google, Google Assistant is now available on more than 400 million devices. What does it mean for mobile designers? It means that when we design a new app, we should give users the freedom to choose what medium they want to use for interactions.

Voice input is particularly valuable in user interaction when the user’s hands are busy. Common examples include cooking and driving. The second example is especially important because taking your hands off the wheel in order to complete a certain operation is distracting and dangerous.
By using voice, it’s also possible to reduce the user effort. Voice input paired with AI can create a magical user experience. Imagine a situation when you need to find a particular file in your folder with dozens of different files. Instead of scrolling through a lot of files, you say, “Find my message to Tim that I sent last week.” The system searches for the message and returns it to you. Isn’t that what we refer to as effortless user interactions?

gif of voice interface design
The next logical step in VUI will be multimodal interfaces. Interfaces that allow using both voice and touch during interactions. Image by Gleb Kuznetsov✈

Localization as a natural part of the design process

Mobile app design is about clarity. And when it comes to clarity, nothing can compare with the impact of in-app text concept. For a long time, design and localization were two different (and independent) processes. But the growing need to release products that can be used by people in different parts of the globe makes mobile designers reconsider the way they create products. As a result, localization becomes a natural part of the design process. The product team not only adapts the visual design to support many different languages but also makes sure that the meaning of text copy and visuals will be clear to anyone who will use the product.

Here are a few techniques that have recently become popular in mobile development:

  • Pseudo localization is a testing method used for testing internationalization aspects of a product. Instead of translating the text of the product into a foreign language, the textual elements of an app are replaced with an altered version of the original language. For example, ‘Account Settings’ becomes [!!! Àççôûñţ Šéţţîñĝš !!!]. Product team members use UI that has such translations when they work on a product. Pseudo localization helps to detect issues with UI earlier in the development cycle.
  • UX writing. Many companies strive to adapt copy and visuals to the global audience. It means that every sentence in the product is carefully checked for meaning. UX writers make the copy completely jargon-free.

The rise of design systems

Many product teams introduce design systems to simplify the mobile development process. Design systems allow teams to create a unified visual language that can be used not only for mobile apps but in all products the team work on (desktop software, websites, etc). Most companies follow a relatively simple strategy when they create design systems. Usually, the interface inventory is the first step in the process of creating a design system. As soon as the team finishes the design inventory process, they know what design debt they have. The next logical step is planning the process of solving this debt by unifying design decisions and using components, patterns and style guides in the design process

Design accessible interfaces

Good accessibility becomes a top priority for mobile app design. 4.5% of the global population experience color-blindness (that’s 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women), 4% suffer from low vision (1 in 30 people), and 0.6% are blind (1 in 188 people). It’s easy to forget that we’re designing for this group of users because the majority of the population doesn’t experience such problems. That’s the reason why success and error messages in mobile forms are often colored green and red, respectively. But red and green are the colors most affected by color-vision deficiency (these colors can be difficult to distinguish for people with deuteranopia or protanopia).

“The fields marked in red are required.” I bet you’ve seen such an error message when filling out a form. While it might not seem like a big thing, this error message combined with the form in the example below can be an extremely frustrating experience for people who have color-vision deficiency.

color-coordinated form field
The form field’s design relies only on red and green to indicate fields with and without an error. Color-blind users cannot differentiate the fields highlighted in red.

As the W3C’s guidelines state, color shouldn’t be used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response or distinguishing a visual element. It’s important to use other visual signifiers to ensure that users will be able to interact with an interface.

visual of icons on form field
The use of icons and labels to show which fields are invalid better communicates the information to a color-blind user.

Functional animation is an essential part of mobile design

Mobile app design can have dozens of different screens. When users navigate, they should understand state transitions; otherwise, they will wonder, “What happened?”. Animation is the best tool to describe state transitions. It helps users comprehend a state change in the page’s layout, what has triggered the change, and how to initiate the change again when needed. Animation helps mobile designers ensure users understand state transitions.

gif of functional animations
Functional animation can efficiently guide the user’s attention and make complex transitions easy to understand. Image by Jae-seong, Jeong

Create multichannel experience

Mobile app design doesn’t exist in isolation. People use a lot of different devices daily, and one of them is a smartphone. One of the typical scenarios is when a mobile user browses an e-commerce website on mobile, then switch to desktop to purchase. That transition needs to feel seamless. That’s why one of the goals that mobile designers have is making the transition to another medium easier for the user.

Consider Spotify. It allows for a seamless multichannel experience. You can set up a playlist on your Mac, and it’ll be instantly available on your iPhone. When you switch between devices, the app remembers where you stop.

screenshot of spotify interface
Spotify multi-channel experience.


Today, mobile users expect a lot from the app – fast loading time, ease of use, and delight during the interaction. According to Fortune, more than 75% of users open an app once and never come back. To increase your chances of success, you need to focus on creating the best possible experience for your users. Mobile app design should always prioritize clarity, efficiency, and aesthetics.