MicroStrategy points out that many apps do not achieve their intended aims, often due to poor readability. The company offers some useful advice on app design.

Simplicity the Watchword for Mobile App Design

“We’ve noticed that very often app designers end up with a design that spoils the readability of their application,” Andrea Schiller, Associate Product Manager at MicroStrategy told L’Atelier, explaining: “so we wanted to get back to the basic features of an application.” In fact, users experience more reading and understanding difficulties with apps – whether developed by startups or major firms – than one might imagine. During a session entitled ‘Apply brilliant yet simple design rules that makes your app magical’, during the MicroStrategy World 2013 event, held on 8-11 July in Barcelona, Andrea Schiller set out some basic rules for designing an app so that it is likely to be crowned with success.

Simplicity too often neglected

Mobile app users nowadays have higher expectations of the app’s design. In order to respond to their new demands, MicroStrategy first and foremost recommends drawing up an application strategy. Designers need to take into account some basic aspects: what sort of application is it (leisure or utility), what kind of device will it run on and lastly, what kind of user is the app intended for. Designers should not dismiss the relevance of the hardware their apps are going to run on, as many studies have shown that users of different devices – tablets, smartphones, etc – do not use them in the same way. An app designed for leisure activities ought first and foremost to be immersive and should have advanced browser capability, whereas a utility app should take the user straight to the point and provide the information in the simplest possible way. Last but not least, the designer should bear in mind different user preferences and approaches. There is a whole range of ways of using apps – just glancing at it, analysing the information, sharing and collaboration, not forgetting the kind of app that is designed to work on a wifi network with little or no access to the Internet. All these factors must be taken into account from the very start of the project.

Design tips

Simplicity also remains the watchword when it comes to visual display. Andrea Schiller recommends using a simple font such as Ariel or Helvetica, and in addition advises designers to stay within a certain size range to avoid detracting from readability. They should of course not forget that in the western world people read a display from left to right and from top to bottom. The information presented should therefore follow the same approach, with the most important facts coming at the top. Designers should nevertheless bear in mind that some languages are written from right to left, i.e. backwards from a western viewpoint. Finally, stressed Andrea Schiller, the choice of colour scheme should be both simple and in harmony with the written text. The colour tones should not be too intrusive, with neither too much nor too little contrast as such excesses can make it almost impossible for the user to read and understand the information displayed by the app.  

By Guillaume Parodi