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5 Key Concepts to Consider When Designing for Mobile

OdedK ‎04-07-2013 08:16 AM - edited ‎09-09-2015 11:26 AM

Have a clear north star!

When you are designing mobile applications it’s crucial to determine precisely which features you intend to deliver. You want to make sure they are the most important ones for the specific users you are targeting.

 It is also important to define the scenarios that your users will need to address when using their mobile applications and the most important elements that need to be on screen for accomplishing those tasks.


In other words, before starting to design we need to make sure we are addressing user needs and supporting those needs in an easy and intuitive manner.




Think mobile and leverage the advantages!

Don’t translate the desktop! The mobile world requires a different mindset when planning for.

One of the first things you need to consider when thinking about mobile is remembering the limited real-estate you have to work with. You also have to consider the amount of information and actions you can fit in. You want to provide “Just enough information”. In order to create a successful mobile app you should also think about the advantages you get when planning  for mobile. Now you can:


  • Mobile enables you to interact with your solution—“Anywhere, any time!”  And you should take this fact into considerations and focus on use cases that can give you an added value for this ability rather than just giving the same functionality you give on other platforms.
  • Mobile sensors and platform capabilities—Mobile devices today have built in sensors and capabilities like: gyro, GPS and cameras.  This should be leveraged and used in order to give “real value” to your app and not just cool features.  
  • Support the different mobile platforms(smartphone/ tablet) — take into account the usage mindset and location, time of interaction, and screen footprint change between types. These should impact your design.




Keep your users delighted


Research shows that people who have “fun” experiences when working are more productive and more forgiving when it comes to UI or functional issues.

Delighting of the user can be accomplished in a few ways:

  • Be Visual—Great visuals determine not only what your solutions look like, but also how it feels. Your solution can come alive through a visual appealing design, animation and motion. The choices you make when it comes to color palette, icons, artwork and visual elements are just some examples of how to impact visually.


  •  Gamification—You can add elements and concepts from games to provide a fun experience and at the same time motivate users to work with your solution.





The more people consume mobile devices the more they expect the device to interact with them when they switch orientation. This ability gives a positive experience and helps the solution’s usability when complying with that  expectation.

Some guidelines worth considering:


  • Keep focus on the primary content and tasks in all orientations
  • Try  to give added value to the user when changing orientation, e.g.. in the some calendar applications changing orientation shows the valuable “week view” that is enabled due to the added horizontal real-estate.
  • Try not to display a UI element that tells people to rotate the device. Try designing the solution with minimum clutter to your UI.
  • Use the orientation to surprise your user and give him the feeling he unveiled a hidden capability.


Motion Makes an IMPACT

It’s not only about creating the WOW factor; it is also about using motion to educate the user about interacting with your solution.

Some benefits of motion:

  • Motion makes the users happy as it creates moments of surprise and interest.
  • Motion adds hints for interaction and can help build the users’ understanding of your solution’s interaction model. 
  • Motion can compensate when you want to improve the perceived feeling of performance issues.  Like loading elements on screen that require  time can be masked by making the user focus on the animation and not just wait for stuff to appear.
  • Motion gives the feeling of high end and sleekness to the solution if it is done properly. 


Small disclaimer: Make sure the motion is subtle and will not become annoying over time.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------The mobile domain is constantly changing and re-inventing itself; if you think that there are additional concepts worth considering or you would like to add to the existing please share! 






About the author:


Oded Klimer is a User Experience Manager & Strategist at HP. For more than a decade he has been Innovating, testing creating, and managing successful User Experiences with a wide variety of products for start-ups as well as fortune 500 companies. Oded holds an M.Sc. from the Technion, majoring in Human Factors Centered Design

About the Author


A User Experience executive who has been introducing UX innovation, strategy and methodology into organizations for the past 15 years. Currently, successfully leading the global User Experience turnaround for HP Software positioning it as a leader in enterprise UX, by incorporating a structured design thinking culture and methodology that in turn has reshaped the internal UX organization as well as impacted the company’s portfolio.

on ‎04-07-2013 09:04 PM

Great post Oded.


I would add that when designing for mobile, we have to take into account the fact that the user needs to have an application which is straight-forward and clear. As opposed to their desktop apps, the mobile user needs a quicker learning curve, and we therefore must use well-known solutions (such as common gestures) or have inline guiding messages.

on ‎04-08-2013 05:58 AM

Great point  Alon-MR !

on ‎04-22-2013 02:41 PM

Great article! Here are some sites that discuss mobile design I'd like to share:


1-A Look Inside Mobile Design Patterns


2-Designing for Mobile, Information Architecture

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