The art of minimalism in app design.

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Zachary Owen Virgin America, AirBnB, UX...

The role of an app is often misunderstood by companies that merely produce one because they feel it is the done thing for any brand trying to grow their online presence. An app must satisfy two key requirements. It must be useful and provide the user with benefits that motivate someone to open it on a daily basis. It must also be user friendly. It is pointless designing an app that has incredible capabilities if it is difficult for the average user to harness them. Mobile design has evolved considerably over the past few years and many apps have proved to be enormously successful due to their clear minimalist design.

However, data shows that 24% of apps are of little to no use to the downloader as they quickly delete them from their phone after using it just one time. With this in mind, there is enormous pressure for a designer to create something of use that will keep the user coming back for more. Mobile platforms are incredibly demanding of UX designers as in most cases they must convert a desktop experience into something that works with touch screen and compliments the existing online framework of the company.

A designer must take into account that the design challenges faced with mobile applications differ greatly from those of a traditional web site. Firstly the nature of mobile usage is very different, people use apps to complete objectives and often do so whilst juggling tasks on the move. This makes speed and simplicity essential to satisfying the user’s demands. Secondly, there are far more variables when building a user friendly app. A designer has to account for a touch screen experience that is comfortable for people with both big and small hands. They must also ensure that the app remains clear in different lighting conditions that mobile users will encounter. There are a diverse range of challenges that determine what makes an app successful or not which is why it is key  for companies to get it right by ensuring that they invest in intelligent design.

The perfect solution to building a great mobile app is to invest in adopting a highly functional minimalist style. Minimalism can often feel confining as it requires a design that cuts back on the amount of onscreen features and information but it is the best way to meet the requirements of potential mobile customers. One of the easiest ways in which to gain an idea of how to best utilise this approach is to take inspiration from other apps that have adopted similar tactics and been hugely successful. Here we look at two that caught the attention of users and have helped companies to increase their conversion rates.

Virgin America 

Virgin America is a famous example of a company who streamlined their online presence through the use of UX and minimalist principles. They stripped back the clutter from the booking process and focussed on making an app that would be the fastest way to buy an airline ticket on the go. The results were incredible as what most people have always known as time consuming task was converted into an efficient booking system that suited the needs of the modern traveller.

The designers focused on an app that provided the user with clear choices rather than confusing dropdown menus. This allowed customers to select their route and dates in a far more efficient way in comparison with other airlines.

The use of white space and simple animations have created a design that will load quickly on all devices and is free of glitches, helping users to have a reliable mobile app that is the most hassle free way of organising their next trip

As a result of the changes made, app conversion rates have increased three-fold and there were over 200,000 app downloads in the first three months since launch which has helped to make Virgin America the first port of call for many flyers.

Uber


Uber realises that the prime objective of almost all users when opening the app is to simply book a taxi which is why it presents them with a clean map and a clear selection of three buttons of frequently taken trips that can be booked in two touches. Of course the app features other options but these do not take a prime position on the front page as the company recognises the needs of the user.

The emphasis is once again on speed. A minimalist design allows for faster loading times with clearer calls to action that will convert the customer faster and secure the sale. Innovative companies recognise this and therefore have made it key to their business model.

Thinking about the customer journey and how to streamline that is key to building a good mobile app. Screen space is limited and therefore avoiding clutter and a confusing message should be the key objective. Functionality must take centre stage in this medium and a minimalist design is the best way of achieving that.

Conclusion

The most famous expression about minimalism is that of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who said that “perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.” There are few better examples of this being true than by looking through the current apps that dominate the market. Companies such as the ones listed above have taken their business to the next level thanks to a minimalist approach with constant refinement to ensure that the needs of the customers are always being met. The pinnacle of this is AirBnB whose change in design fundamentally changed their business model and the way they marketed themselves. 

Innovative design does not require you to reinvent the wheel. Similar principles that have been used to grow other companies can be used as inspiration and incorporated with the relevant industry. To avoid turning into that growing percentage of apps that are deleted after a few uses, modern design principles must be applied. As more companies like Virgin America realise this message, the need for change will become increasingly pressing as the market gets more competitive with customers that constantly demand more from their online experience.