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The Essential Principles of Mobile App UX Design For Startups

Let me guess…

You are wondering what makes users choose one app over another. Why is everyone into VSCOcam over a hundred of other photo editing alternatives?

It’s not always about being the first or offering a revolutionary product idea. Sure, those play their part, but the truth is – no matter how mind-blowing/useful/innovative etc. your idea is, mediocre design and blah execution will sweep all the appeal from it.

UX design for startups is essential to secure long-term product viability, tons of users and top revenues.

While traditional graphical design usually chases the goal of offering an eye candy to the user, UX design takes a more utilitarian route and places the emphasis on usability, accessibility and sheer pleasure from interacting with a mobile app.

Here’s a quick example: think of traditional design as designers chair. It’s uber-fancy, made of attractive materials, has a peculiar shape and is absolutely not suitable for sitting too long.

And there is your favorite chair brand – an ergonomic chair, which makes your bottom feel comfy, your back relaxed and has this pleasant homely feel.

So, what are you planning to create – an extravagant stool for artsy exhibitions or the next household name type of brand everyone loves?

UX design assumes creating a solution, users can’t help, but fall in love with. Not just for the looks and concept, but due to the satisfaction gained from using it.

Let’s take a closer look on how exactly this is achieved.


It may be tempting to go outside the box with your mobile app UX design, but if users don’t understand how to use your app – they’ll abandon it.

Your app should ooze familiarity. Users should be able to easily predict the next action and what will happen if they tap a certain custom control.

A great user experience design for a mobile app should take the following device-specific nuances into account:

How users hold the phone: Steven Hoober studied the habits of 1.300 mobile users and came to the next conclusions:

Image via

Thumbs drive 75% of all mobile interactions, that why you should focus on designing for thumb flow, and make your content easily accessible with one finger. Our fat fingers are larger than the mouse cursor (approx. 45-57 pixels wide), though Apple recommends using 44 pixels for clickable elements. Don’t make your buttons too small or situated too closely, so that users can tap them accurately.

Take common gestures into account. Those may vary from platform to platform and on different devices, yet you can stick to the core ones suggested by LukeW:


Don’t forget about the texts too! Use shorter texts prompting instant action e.g. Buy, Register, All Products etc. Keep the important labels short as people on mobile are impatient e.g. Name instead of Full Name. Make sure all the wording is consistent across all app screens.

Study the common mobile patterns and animations used in your niche e.g. slide-out navigation, grid layout for e-commerce apps, confirmation and login pages. Pttrns and Mobile Patterns are the two free databases to check out.

Bottom line: Start with learning the key interaction patterns for Apple and Android. Those are essential to know not only for a mobile UX design company, but for a product owner as well, who’s still refining their product vision for business.


Clutter is the mortal enemy of any great app design.

If you need an idea for a quick startup – start a comic series featuring the evil Dr. Clutter versus The Super Designer. Everyone at the UX/UI community will be at your doorstep 😉

Now, jokes aside, clutter doesn’t look sexy on small mobile screens. But apart from the obvious aesthetic imbalance, having multiple graphic and interactive elements inside your app will make it slow and glitchy.

Do you know why users abandon apps?

  • 62% will not give a frozen/crashed app a second try.
  • 47% of users hate slow apps and the majority expects an app to launch in 2 seconds.
  • 37% will abandon an app if it doesn’t work as expected.

So how do you keep things simple and stylish?

  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, advises using the two-tap rule. It should take just two taps to do anything you want within an app or web service. The less your users have to think about their next move in the app – the more delightful their experience with your company will be.
  • Replace texts with icons whenever possible.
  • Use progressive exposure to reveal additional content and functionality while keeping the user’s attention at one main action at a time.
  • Don’t stuff your app with the features you think that users need, opposed to what they actually want. Install app analytics, gather feedback and monitor your app’s performance before rolling out new functionality.

Build an app that accomplishes one goal perfectly, rather than a mediocre one with multiple features.


Ask a kid who struggles with Math if he likes the subject? Obviously, not.

You can’t like something you don’t understand.

Mobile app users are just like that kid. They won’t use a hard to grasp solution. Good mobile app user experience design assumes creating a product that people just “get” within a few seconds after looking at it.

Our brains have a limited supply of cognitive resources to use on a daily basis and your product shouldn’t require too much brainpower to navigate.

Users want to have a stronger sense of control when it comes to interacting with the app. And when things go just the way they’ve anticipated, it brings a feeling of emotional and psychological delight.

Digestibility is achieved through the next simple tips:

Keep the focus on your users main goal. So, what sort of benefits are you pitching – an easier way to network with other entrepreneurs? Or an elegant online banking solution to check balance and make payments on the go?

You need to understand what exactly your user will try to accomplish within the app and deliver a respective feature instantly. Keep the main feature icon and button prominent in all screens. Users don’t want to scroll through an endless menu of features and subfeatures. Your users should be focused on one action within one screen.

Use a hierarchy to hint popular choices. Keep additional choices hidden and revealed progressively while highlighting the top choice with color, size and icons.

Don’t port straight from the desktop. It is a common mistake product owners make with native mobile apps. People will use your app using a different kind of controller, in a different context for a different duration of time. Great mobile UX comes beyond making a few tweaks in your website code and laying it onto a mobile pattern.

Add a simple “Getting Started Guide”. If you offer a more complex mobile solution, pitch a simple user guide outlining the key product features. Suggest one tip at a time and offer an option to skip the step. Keep it short, sweet and straight to the point. No one likes installing an app and discovering a stash of confusing inductions instead of the anticipated experience.

User cards to structure content. Bite-sized cards are among the top mobile design trends this year.

Cards make miracles in terms of responsive design. If you turn the entire page into blocks of content, they will look equally great on different devices with different screen sizes as unlike single page content can be recognized and placed optimally without losing any meaning.

The standard card format consists of the following elements:

  • Image
  • Title
  • Text Description
  • Control Icons
  • Expandable Options


Apart from the obvious learning curve and intuitive in-app navigation, UX design assumes striking the balance between abundant information and the main app functions.

Clarity could be achieved through incorporation on multiple levels including:

Meaningful typography: The key here is to balance legibility and space conservation. Don’t blindly copy typefaces from your desktop app and consider choosing simpler versions, which look great in small size. Sans serif and fonts with rounded edges pair well with minimalistic aesthetics and flat design.

Alignments should be used wise as well.

  • Left alignment for large text blocks as this goes in line with the natural reading rhythms.
  • Center alignment for small text blocks e.g. headlines, call-to-actions, navigation texts. This improves visibility and looks more attractive than hanging texts.

Meaningful content: Good copy is essential for an app, however, don’t place all the value into texts. Apps are meant to be interactive, hence consider replacing certain text elements with icons or graphics.

Mobile copywriting can be summed up to:

  • Craft witty, short slogans to deliver the key app message.
  • Choose simple wording to describe features and categories.
  • Leave cues to the context of using the app e.g. “TGIF! Get to know where are the best margaritas are served tonight!”
  • Use bullet points and subheads to structure large text blocks.
  • Include prominent CTAs.
  • The first sentence in the first screen means everything 😉

Meaningful layout. Users shouldn’t zoom in to see your key content. All the elements should be distinguishable enough on mobile screens.

  • Adapt font sizes and contrasts to ensure better reading experience.
  • Avoid overlapping texts and add additional spacing at the right for scrolling.
  • Offer high-resolution visuals (yet, don’t forget to optimize them for fast loading).

These are the core principles to govern efficient mobile app UX design for startups. Alty has been developing top UX concepts and ultimate layouts for nearly a decade. If you are planning to hire UX designers – look no further! Our compact team stood behind a dozen of winning UX designs for brands that have recently become a household name. We’d love to discuss your ideas, outline the design costs and bring your product vision to life!

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