As mobile app designers, it’s our job to be up-to-date with mobile design trends. We read the industry reports, we observe our competition, and we do everything we can to make sure our own work upholds the impossibly high standards set for us. But it’s not always easy to keep up with so much competition releasing new apps so often.
We understand you’re busy, but this is still important information to digest. To help you out, we took a look at some of the predicted mobile design trends of 2017 to see how our own work was measuring up. Here are a few that we think are the most important this year — and why you should already be on these bandwagons.
Video and Animations
A few years ago, we watched photos take over social media. Smartphones with really incredible cameras capable of taking stunning photos (especially in comparison to the handiwork of our flip-phones) enabled us to upload and tweet to our heart’s content. Before we knew it, pictures really were worth a thousand words in a 140 character space.
Since then, our newer, fancier phones have helped us harness the power of communicating through video — and boy, have we exploited that to the fullest. Ice bucket challenges, Snapchat, Boomerang, and gifs (our biggest guilty pleasure) spread like wildfire across the Internet. It seemed like it happened overnight, which is probably why all of our Twitter and Facebook feeds started loading slower than usual.
Luckily, mobile app developers have figured out how to (mostly) solve the loading problems for us, like through lazy loading — another 2017 mobile design trend. In short: video is not leaving us. Not soon and probably not ever. Which means it’s past time for designers to jump on the train before it speeds away from the platform.
Moving objects catch our eyes, which has certainly aided the rampant success of video on the Internet, far more-so than photos or simple text. Therefore, any animations we add into our mobile app designs will guide users to where we might want them to go. Let’s say you’ve added a new feature and you want to highlight it. Upon the first open, you could animate the new button to flash or pop out in some fashion. Users will notice the movement and be drawn to it.
The best thing about this mobile design trend is that using it effectively gives your app a more polished appearance. Transitioning from one screen to another or having a pop-out menu appear doesn’t have to be a mundane occurrence. Adding a little flair by sliding icons up the screen into view makes your app look well thought-out and professional — and you can perfect those animations in the prototyping phase.
Speaking of prototyping, we’re reluctant to call it a mobile design trend, since we’ve been doing it for years — but nevertheless, more and more people are realizing how beneficial the process is, which means they might call it a “trend.” So fine, we’ll just say we were way ahead of the curve and we helped set the trend.
Prototyping is something you should be doing regardless of whether it’s a hot mobile design trend or not. A functional prototype is an invaluable resource to all those involved in the making of a mobile app. It’s the best way to get some UX and UI testing in before the development phase, which means you can fix problems you didn’t anticipate prior to paying a developer to actually write the code. This allows you to save yourself (more than) a few bucks in change-order requests.
Prototyping makes your life as an app designer much easier. It not only jumpstarts your mobile app and puts you in a better position to bring it to life, but prototyping bridges the communication gaps between designers and developers. There are less questions, less back and forth, less mistakes, and more time to get actual work done — and the sooner the work gets done, the quicker you can release your app to the public.
We believe prototyping goes further than a mobile design trend. Unlike trends, prototyping isn’t going to fall off the grid when it’s not en vogue anymore. Prototyping works, which is how we know it’ll be around for the long haul and why you should already be doing it.
Integration of In-App Purchases
At the end of 2016, eMarketer predicted that mobile sales (including through web-browsers) would total nearly $157 billion in the coming year. That’s up from about $116 billion in 2016 and $81 billion in 2015. Based on the consistently sharp upticks year by year, it’s pretty safe to assume that mobile payments and in-app purchases are going to keep increasing. In fact, eMarketer suspects this number could be as high as $336 billion by 2020.
If you’ve already started selling through your mobile app (because you should have), it might be time to start thinking about integrating those in-app purchases in a more intuitive, sleek manner. Having a “store” within your app is all fine and dandy, but not sneaking in some asks throughout the user experience means you’re losing out on potential sales.
Think about some of the gaming apps like Angry Birds or Candy Crush. You’ve run out of lives and you’re still sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Before you close the app, they ask if you want to buy five more lives. They make it so easy for you to spend your hard earned dollars.
Even newspaper apps like The Washington Post and The New York Times have mini-asks throughout their UX. Some content might be free — or perhaps just the first few articles you read each month — but you need a subscription to access the rest of what the newspaper has to offer.
In this case, a pop up window appears asking you if you’d like to subscribe in order to continue reading. It’s not “subtle,” necessarily, since they are directly asking you for money, but it doesn’t feel pushy or rude. They’re just saying that to continue using the app, you’ll need to pay. Sure, they have “subscribe” buttons at the bottom of the app as well, but isn’t it more effective to catch people in the moment they might want a subscription, rather than wait for them to think of it?
In-app purchases are here to stay — we know that. But we can develop more natural (and effective) ways of asking for our valuable customers’ money if we integrate them into the full user experience, rather than hiding our store from plain sight or being pushy like that car salesman that stalks you around the showroom floor. Mobile design trends are all about making a better user experience, right? So let’s step up our game here.
A Welcome Goodbye to the Hamburger
Not the delicious patty of red meat on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and ketchup. Those are wonderful and should never go away. We’re talking about those three little lines in the upper left or right hand corner of your mobile app. When you tap them, a pop-out navigation menu appears, giving users all kinds of options for where to go next. Need to pay your bill? Looking for your account home page? It’s all in that convenient menu. Correction: it was.
As with all mobile design trends, they serve their purpose for awhile and then it’s time to say goodbye to it and replace it with something more efficient. Facebook and Spotify were early ditchers of the hamburger for a sleek navigation menu across the bottom of the screen that offered the same options the old menu did — but in plain sight.
Sometimes, shifts in mobile design trends occur because people want something that looks fresh and other times, it’s a matter of necessity because the design doesn’t function the way it was expected it to. In this case, it’s really the latter.
The problem with the hamburger-style menu is that it wasn’t particularly self-explanatory, especially for less tech-savvy users. If someone is looking for their account home page, they had no way of accessing it if they didn’t realize what those three little lines meant. It alienated a part of the user-base and made it more complicated for users who did know what the lines were to access the information they were looking for.
Keeping a simple global navigation bar at the bottom of the screen makes things much easier for everyone. Getting to your account takes one tap instead of two (or a series of multiple frustrated-just-before-deleting-the-app taps), which means users can get around more efficiently and are more likely to keep using it. Spotify even found that user engagement went up after implementing this change, which is welcome news for any mobile app designer. This static bottom menu provides a better experience for your customers, which creates a better experience for you.
Why Mobile Design Trends are Important
We’ve discussed before why continuing education is important for designers and keeping up with industry news and trends is part of the job description of a designer. In order to remain relevant, we must remain current. Our designs simply cannot look like we’re stuck in 2010, or even 2015. Users will notice and our download statistics will pay for it.
We owe it to our users, our careers, and ourselves to always be searching for better ways to do things — and that’s where mobile design trends come in. Sometimes the trends (oftentimes set by Google’s Material Design guide) help us get closer to that goal, but not always. It’s important to remember that trends may or may not apply to you and your specific mobile app — and wasting time on the ones that don’t aren’t going to help you at all.
Instead, think about how your users would benefit from executing one (or any) of these trends. Check out the user data. Conduct some surveys. You should only make changes to your mobile app if they make sense, which seems like common sense, but it’s easy to let the updating get out of hand. Before you know it, people are complaining that they can’t find anything in your app anymore.
And when you go to update your app with the newest mobile design trends, be a trendsetter! The prototyping phase isn’t just for initial development. You can always go back to it and make changes. Your developers will thank you for not just handing them a bunch of scribbled notes about menus and microinteractions — and your users will reap the rewards.
Proto.io lets anyone build mobile app prototypes that feel real. No coding or design skills required. Bring your ideas to life quickly! Sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io today and get started on your next mobile app design.
What is your favorite mobile design trend for 2017? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio!