The No-Nonsense Guide to Mobile User Experience

Written by Abby Hill
6 mins, 57 secs Read
Updated On November 16, 2023

User experience (UX) refers to the experience the user goes through when using a product, service, or software. It is at the heart of website design principles and goes hand in hand with creating appealing designs and systems for customers.

Good UX leads to happy customers who spread word-to-mouth advertising for your business, the best advertising there is. The ROI of good UX is virtually limitless, as you can draw in more customers who recommend your app to others, creating a positive feedback loop.

Bad UX drives away customers before they even see what you’re capable of, particularly for mobile apps. This is why knowing the difference between bad UX and good UX is often the difference between failure and success.

User Experience: What It Means and Why It’s Important

In short, UX is everything a customer feels when interacting with your brand. From when they first realize you exist to filling out surveys after using your product, everything should be clear and easy to use. Customer journey maps are helpful, but they tend to focus on particular touchpoints rather than the entire journey itself.

When you’re talking about UX in software and application design, you have an entire slew of new problems to consider. Understanding how a customer interacts with your website and app can help you advertise and sell your product more effectively.

When it comes to mobile apps, designing for UX is even more critical. Most consumers interact with companies using their phones, and mobile apps are often considered more professional and safe than desktop websites. With mobile commerce on the rise, it’s clear that having a mobile app can help set you apart from the competition.

However, how people use their phones is fundamentally different from how they use desktops and laptops. This difference is the core of mobile UX principles and is why you should design your mobile app for that specific customer experience.

UX And UI: Similar, But Not the Same

UI stands for user interface, and it refers to the design, style, and ease of use for your website or app. It’s similar to UX and user experience, but they are not the same thing. UI is purely about how customers interact with your apps, websites, and software. UX is about the entire experience and includes the entire customer journey from beginning to end.

It would be accurate to say that UI is a part of UX, but UI is only concerned with the design and operation of your app whereas UX is the design principle that UI should be based on.

The Difference Between Desktop and Mobile

People usually use laptops or desktops for long periods of time, while tending to use mobile apps in shorter bursts. You have to completely rework your website’s processes when developing a mobile version, with the aim of saving the customer time so they don’t switch to a faster competitor.


Phones are a lot smaller than desktops. That means you have fewer screens to display information.

Does this mean you should cram information into every pixel of space available? No – cluttering your app with data (thus making it run slower and take up more space on the user’s device) is an excellent way to make sure it’s uninstalled. Instead, you need to condense the information on the mobile app down to the basics.

On a mobile device, the only information you should display is what a customer needs to know immediately at that point in their journey. You can feature a navigable menu that displays other information for the consumer. But you should never clutter the app with pictures, blocks of text, buttons, and every widget they could ever need (especially if there’s no data saying they need it).


Most people use their phones vertically rather than horizontally. While you can have a horizontal orientation for your app, you mainly want to design for verticality.

On mobile, this means you only have one column with which to present information. This is an exercise in creativity and cutting unnecessary information. For example, your menu could be a button that pops up or is easily removed with a swipe.

Such a design will allow you to put more information on a page because the customer will always have access to the menu without it disrupting their experience. Mobile navigation and content solutions exist if you are willing to experiment with and test designs.


When your customers open your app for the first time, they don’t know where to go or even how to get started. It’s your job to guide them there. You don’t want to leave them confused and trying to navigate independently, then missing the information or experience they originally came for.

A simple menu with easy-to-read destinations and actions is a good place to start. A tutorial or even simple prompts can go a long way if your customers are at risk of being confused by your app’s navigation.


When it comes to mobile device input, you have to plan for touchscreens. Desktops typically don’t have touchscreen capability (at least not enough of them to warrant specialized design). Your mobile apps need to have a layout and menu that takes advantage of touch inputs, such as pinching, zooming, swiping, and more.

Most consumers use one thumb when interacting with a touchscreen, holding their phone in one hand while their attention is diverted elsewhere. You should design your app to interact with touch-specific inputs, and customers should easily be able to reach most of the screen with one thumb.

Principles of Mobile UX

Mobile UX requires a different basic design than that of a website visited via desktop or even a tablet. You can’t just port your website into an app. While the underlying purpose of desktop UX and mobile UX is the same, you’re designing for different people with different constraints.


Cell phones are ubiquitous in the modern age. That’s why mobile commerce is gaining so much traction! However, you should keep in mind that if you’re going to design an app for any potential use, you need to add accessibility features that allow everyone to use it.

Offering options to allow enhanced accessibility, like text-to-speech or dark mode, can go a long way toward expanding your potential user base.


When a consumer picks up their phone, it’s usually with an intended purpose. You need to be able to fulfill their needs quickly and effectively. If your app takes too long to load, has too many required forms to fill, or just feels clunky to users, consumers will find your competitors and use their app instead.

90% of consumers stopped using an app due to poor performance. Always prioritize function over form when designing your mobile app.


The core of UX is the management of expectations. The more your customer understands your app and how to use it, the more they’ll use it. Using a simple, easy-to-understand design means that the customer will use your app more than they would have otherwise.

There’s always a learning curve for a new app. It’s important to reduce this as much as possible to create an easy and fun experience for the consumer.

Rules for Good Mobile User Experience

When creating your app, these are more design tips than hard and fast rules you need to follow. But it’s still a good idea to keep these in mind when designing an app for the customer experience.

Visual Feedback

When consumers push a button, they want to know if the action was received and is leading to the desired change. Animations are an excellent way to signal this and can be fun for the consumer, but even a loading progress bar or a rotating circle would work.

If the screen remains the same, the customer will be frustrated and click multiple times, leading to prolonged loading and more frustration. This never-ending cycle can repeat until the customer leaves the app and uninstalls it for being unresponsive (because they have no reason to think otherwise).

Previous Designs

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to app design. Check out designs of popular apps similar to yours and see what helps them retain customers. While creativity is never a bad thing, always keep the KISS principle in mind.


When it comes to typical use, phones are mainly held in one hand while the thumb navigates the screen.  Keeping the main navigation and functional buttons within easy reach of the user’s thumb makes your app inherently more comfortable for the consumer to use.

However, comfort is more than just keeping things within thumb distance. It can include a horizontal orientation if you have a video player, voice recognition if you think customers’ hands will be busy while using the app, aark mode if they’ll be using the app late at night, or a light mode if consumers are more likely to use your app in sunlight.

Comfort is going above and beyond the core functionality of your app, going that extra mile for the consumer so they can use your app effectively in less-than-optimal circumstances (as well as the circumstances where they’re most likely to use it). While accessibility is a part of this, you can think of it as providing customer service before a problem even arises.

Mobile UX: Good For Customers, Great For You

When designing your mobile app, remember it’s more than just porting your website onto a smaller screen. It’s about catering to the consumer on a different platform, taking into account different hardware, inputs, screens, and purposes.

While the core tenets of UX remain the same, you need to adapt those principles to the platform you are using. Different platforms mean different approaches, not just between desktop and mobile but all different mediums.

A good experience will keep your customers coming back for more and draw in new users, increasing the success of your app in an increasingly mobile-centered world. A bad experience will cause your app to flop harder than a fish on dry land.

Remember to design for the consumer and keep your mobile app accessible, effective, and easy to use. It’s key to your success, as well as keeping your users happy.

Author: Abby Hill