The App Design Process: Bringing Your Ideas to Market
App design is more than pretty colors and flashy animation—it’s the how and why of the app development process, deeply ingrained throughout the entire project. UI/UX designers work to create both a well-designed user experience and a beautiful interface. UI/UX designers and software developers work together to deliver your concept into a full-fledged, go-to-market digital product so your app is ready for launch.
Developing code can seem like a concrete step, but how do you get your app’s design from concept to code? In this article, we’ll detail what you’ll need to do to transform ideas into user experiences, inject design theory and best practices, and deliver an app to market that delights the end user and meets your product goals.
Stages in the App Design Process
At its core, app design is about defining strategy, reviewing designs with increasing detail and interactivity, and working with experts who immerse themselves in your project—aligning your goals and the product’s user experience at every stage. Designers apply elements such as color, fonts, icons, illustration, animation, navigation, and brand design, through a proven process that makes it easy for you to achieve your goals:
- Strategy: Meeting Your App’s Business Objectives Through Design
- Wireframing: Illustrating How Your App Will Work
- High-Fidelity Designs: Previewing Your App
- Launch & Marketing: Bringing Your App to Users
Read on for more details on each stage and how app design brings your ideas to fruition.
1. Strategy: Meeting Your App’s Business Objectives Through Design
The strategy provides the plan to meet the business objectives of your app through design. Understanding your business, goals, and the desired end product is our very first objective and what guides our success, so our designers immerse ourselves in these areas. In discovery sessions, we work with you to identify your product vision and objectives. Through detailed research, discussion, and strategic analysis, we begin to define and visualize the end product.
Defining user experience requirements takes precedence from the very beginning of the app design process. To create the best design for your app, our designers work to fully understand what the end-to-end user experience should look like. To do this, we ask questions like these:
- What is the problem your app will solve?
- What functions will your app provide?
- Who are your app’s target users?
- What are users going to achieve through the app?
- What are their pain points?
- What motivates your users?
- What is important to them?
- How can we best serve users through design?
- Are there other products in this market space we should look at?
- Do you have brand or style guidelines already in place?
We also research the competitive landscape to unearth how your app is situated in the market during this stage. And, through audience analysis, we research the goals of potential users in that context.
Using information gathered from discovery sessions, competitor and audience analysis, and other relevant research, we are ready to start designing wireframes to validate the app’s information architecture and user flows, as discussed in the next stage.
2. Wireframing: Illustrating How Your App Will Work
The term “wireframe” has a long history, originating from design in car modeling, stop-motion animation, and sculpture to then being referenced in computer-aided design and CGI animation. Similarly, the wireframe serves as a visual guide to the user journey in app design, illustrating how your app will work.
Why is wireframing important? Think about it this way: If you were building a house, you wouldn’t want to invest time and money before understanding the blueprint. In the same way, a wireframe makes sense to design early in the process before investing time, money, and coding into the final product.
Fidelity is another essential aspect of the design process. Like the term “wireframe,” the term “fidelity” is drawn from other historical uses—in this case, the music scene, where it refers to audio quality. With wireframes in app design, fidelity represents the amount of detail shown. As we design your app, there is a spectrum of detail that begins to take more and more shape in terms of the level of clarity and interactivity.
We develop sketches and low-fidelity wireframes, which we will typically share with clients. These wireframes validate the app’s information architecture and user flows before getting into actual designs.
For example, here’s a low-fidelity wireframe of a music app we developed:
Clients review the low-fidelity wireframes, and we learn what high-level changes need to be made before moving to the next stage—high-fidelity wireframing. We then begin to consider UI elements—the color palette, visual hierarchy, and more that will start to come to life in your app design.
3. High-Fidelity Designs: Previewing Your App
High-fidelity designs are an effective preview of your app, rendering details in full color. At this stage, we take the wireframes and bring them to life with a fully branded design.
Using the same app as above as an illustration, you can see the difference as we’ve moved from low-fidelity to high-fidelity:
High-fidelity designs and, when needed, working prototypes, offer many advantages as the last step on the design detail spectrum. They provide an immersive experience that helps everyone truly grasp your app and provide a refined level of feedback to establish final agreement before coding begins. Seeing details in full color alongside architecture and flow, we can also improve the user experience.
Here’s a summary of the purpose these high-fidelity designs serve:
- Render details in full color and branding
- Enable clients and other stakeholders like investors to grasp your app’s true appeal
- Provide a vehicle for comprehensive and precise feedback
- Establish a final consensus on deliverables before coding begins
- Enable assessment and improvement of user experience
After a few rounds of revisions, we’ll create a digital style guide that we will hand off to developers who will build the app.
For example, here are some snapshots from the style guide for the music app:
4. Launch & Marketing: Bringing Your App to Users
To download or not to download—that is the question. And with so many choices, delivering code isn’t enough to make a digital product successful. You want your app to be seen, which makes the launch and marketing stage equally crucial to all the others from a designer’s point of view. You can go beyond making a great first impression by marketing your app to attract, engage, and exceed your users’ expectations.
While the strategies for marketing your app may vary, selling your app visually is a vital component of marketing it. App store landing pages feature your icon, screenshots, and video previews.
The landing pages for our music app, for example, appeal to potential users by providing an attractive and informative visual summary of the app’s design and key features:
App Design to the Finish Line
Building a successful digital product requires more than development skills—design is a crucial consideration for any app project. At InspiringApps, our design skills elevate us from what other development agencies can provide. According to InspiringApps’ Art Director, Aaron Lea, what we’re creating is inspired and unique:
Central to our app design methodology is our finish line, every time guarantee. InspiringApps pours our expertise into your app design and development from start to launch. As evidenced by our award-winning apps and our design-centric team, our app design process is integral to bringing your app to market. We guarantee your project will reach the finish line.
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Generation Z is a brilliant and forward-thinking generation making a progressive transformation in the world as we know it. Following behind Millennials, they are heavily immersed in the technical landscape and are highly app savvy. They were born into a world of expansion and innovation with creations like the Apple iPhone and Facebook. Having grown up with the ability to access knowledge at the tap of their fingertips, they’re educated individuals with great entrepreneurial goals. They expect companies to anticipate their needs and will move on when they don’t deliver. They’re looking for flawless app design, fast iterations, responsible data collection, creative outlets, and more. Some Facts About Generation Z Born between 1997 and 2012, they’re in the era of self-discovery. Since their youth, Gen Z parents have been navigating the rise of technology and the online privacy issues that come with it; for Gen Z, finding their true selves is no easy task. Due to their immense media consumption, they expect instant gratification and high-speed delivery. As the “mobile generation,” 96% of Gen Zers are reported to own a cellphone—many spend 10 hours plus connected online. They frequent social platforms like Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, Twitch, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and other platforms. Gen Zers gravitate to mobile banking apps to serve their financial needs and streamline their tasks. Consequently, email is slowly dying out among this community of users. Generation Z interacts with apps in their lives as a means of communication, to fill a need in their life, and for play and creative expression. They are true digital natives and are hyper-connected to the world around them—making them increasingly self-aware and emotionally reflective. Generation Z also reports high rates of anxiety, depression, and mental challenges—more so than in past generations. Experiencing a global pandemic has only exasperated their mental health struggles. Consequently, prioritizing and addressing mental health is of great importance. Take Oye—a creative wellness app created by singer J Balvin “to make the world feel better.” It’s an app to transform your emotions into creative actions with mind-body practices, daily emotional check-in tools, personalized goal setting, and mindful notifications. Gen Z has proven to be catalyzed citizens who want to make a difference through social responsibility. Their innate understanding of the power of social networks and their regular consumption of news and information has allowed Gen Z to move past the era of Millennial armchair activism. While navigating life in today’s world, Gen Z confidently prioritizes experiences over objects. Considerations in App Development for Generation Z The Generation Z cohort is a significant target for app developers. Being born and raised in the digital age, they are always looking for novel tech to explore. Generation Z represents much larger historical forces at play, driving progressive transformation in the workplace that will redefine the entire generational experience. As a result, this generation has experienced increased globalization, technological advancements, and a fast-paced influx of information. Generation Z is changing the way we build digital experiences. Generation Z is the first generation to merge the digital and physical worlds into one experience. They view the internet as more than just a transaction and instead see it as a human experience. What that means for development is creating intuitive experiences that Gen Zers will love—innovative, straightforward, and seamless. With this information in mind, we’ve identified vital considerations to keep in mind when developing digital products for Generation Z. What Gen Z Consumers Want in An App Obsessively Tested, Flawless Design Gen Zers value efficiency and flawless design. That is why thorough testing and gaining user feedback are paramount. Be sure to ask for feedback from this generation and integrate the user input throughout your app’s development process and in updates. “If the designer doesn’t remove themself and try to see the user’s perspective, they can overly complicate the journey.” AARON LEA, ART DIRECTOR AT INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO Glitchy user interface behaviors and poor design choices are instant turnoffs for Gen Zers. Make your app seamless and flawless from the start, or you may lose your customer. Build your app with swift and straightforward interactions, and don’t reinvent the wheel for every feature within your product—draw inspiration from apps that are already working. By sticking with best practices and standard features and anticipating your users’ desires, your users will navigate more intuitively and stick around for more. Fast Iterations Gen Z consumers have grown up in a fast-paced digital world and value convenience and efficiency. They prefer mobile apps that offer quick and uninterrupted experiences, such as fast loading times, easy checkout processes, and streamlined workflows. Keep your app low on data—fast to download and delete. Control Over Their Digital Footprint Gen Zers quickly went from a private world to everything constantly being shared online. In their formative years, they grew up with little technology at their disposal. They were thrust into a world of hyper-technology and interconnectedness as time progressed. With that in mind, here are essential factors to keep at the forefront of your app development: Privacy Settings Gen Z should be able to manage their privacy settings on apps. This type of functionality includes having the ability to choose whether their information is shared publicly or only with specific individuals and having the option to limit the usage of their personal data. Data Transparency Gen Z should have clear access and information about what data is collected, how it’s used, and to whom it gets shared. Responsible Data Collection It’s essential to ensure that Gen Zers’ personal data is protected from data breaches and cyber threats. Apps should implement robust security practices to keep user data safe. Value-Add Through Personalization You can add value with personalization by using various technologies, such as saving login information, geolocation, machine learning, and AI, to cater to the specific needs of Gen Z. It is crucial to find a proper balance in incorporating personalization that genuinely adds value, without overdoing it. Here are a few core components to adding value through personalization: Saving Login Information Gen Z is all about convenience, and one way to provide that is by saving their login information. By doing so, you not only save them time but also provide a straightforward user journey. Geolocation Gen Z consumers are constantly on the go and expect a personalized experience based on their location. Using geolocation technology, you can offer tailored recommendations, promotions, and content based on their location. Machine Learning & AI If you want to better understand your Gen Z customers, machine learning can be a potent tool. By analyzing their data, you can personalize their experience and provide the results they seek—before they even ask. AI and machine learning are great tools for automating manual tasks as well. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in many ways to develop apps for Gen Z. Here are some ways to incorporate ML and AI in your app to improve its performance: Personalized Recommendations: ML algorithms can provide customized recommendations to Gen Z users based on their interests, behaviors, and preferences. Chatbots & Virtual Assistants: With natural language processing (NLP) techniques, it’s now possible to create bots that can interact with Gen Z users in a way that feels just like talking to a real person. Bots can help users with tasks such as scheduling, finding information, or making purchases on their mobile devices. Image & Video Recognition: Computer vision techniques can be used to recognize images and videos, which can be helpful in apps such as social media platforms, gaming, or e-commerce. Predictive Modeling: Predictive modeling techniques can be used to forecast future behaviors and trends. For instance, a news app can predict which articles will be most popular among Gen Z users. Predictive modeling ensures your app stays ahead of the curve. Voice Recognition: Voice recognition techniques can be used to develop voice-enabled apps and devices that can be controlled with voice commands. This technology can be helpful in apps such as virtual assistants, smart home devices, or hands-free gaming. ML and AI can help app developers create more engaging, personalized, and interactive apps for Gen Z users. By leveraging these technologies, app developers can improve the user experience and stay ahead of the competition. Creative Tools More than half of Gen Zers believe they are more creative than previous generations. Most of them engage in creative activities in their free time. Gen Z is a highly creative generation that values individuality and self-expression. Therefore, niche tools enabling creativity are essential for creating apps that resonate with them. Concluding Thoughts on Developing Apps for Gen Z Gen Zers have a unique vantage point when it comes to app development. They’ve experienced the best of both worlds—an era of privacy merged with hyper-connectedness. They are vicarious app consumers, making them ideal customers for app developers. Brands that take the time to understand their Gen Z users’ behaviors, motivations, preferences, and expectations will experience significant growth. Considering the above considerations, one can ensure that their app hits the mark with this brilliant and forward-thinking generation. Gen Z wants more than just an app. They crave a unique experience that fulfills their daily needs and brings joy. The app should leave them feeling special and enhance their well-being. At InspiringApps, we stay on the pulse and ahead of the curve to bring you the most forward-thinking and trending app development insights. If you have any questions or thoughts on the above material—we’d be delighted to connect!
21 days ago
Boulder, CO—In the latest article from Built In Colorado, InspiringApps’ Creative Director, Aaron Lea, shares his advice on creating simplified user journeys within digital products. How To Simplify User Journeys When do you know it’s time to simplify your product’s user journey? When we design digital apps, we’re always looking for ways to simplify the user journey. Limiting the number of interactions users have to make is a best practice for most apps. The more users have to drill down into extra screens, the more likely they are to leave. I like to think of it this way: design the app like you’re in the Target parking lot and about to go inside the store to buy Tide Pods. As a user, I want to be in and out as quickly as possible. A quick exchange that’s easy for me to use means I’m more prone to open the app the next time I’m in that Target parking lot. It’s often the case that apps are downloaded, opened once, and then deleted. These apps are too cluttered, and people won’t reuse them. On the other hand, when users know it doesn’t take too long to accomplish a task—no guided tours they’re more likely to use the app. A simple experience is a successful experience. Unless we’re creating something like TikTok, we aren’t designing the app to keep users in it. We’re here to help users achieve something or access a specific feature. The fewer interactions it takes to accomplish that, the better the journey. What process do you use to identify opportunities for simplification? App design is an art that involves trusting your instincts. I like to think of this process as similar to editing a script. Editors are great at identifying what’s essential and getting rid of clutter. But their real goal is staying true to what makes the script great—and amplifying that by revealing only what needs to be there. For example, an app may have a component that mirrors the functionality of Slack or Youtube. These are established popular apps. And even the best digital products aren’t going to lure people away from them. Any project, whether it’s designing an app or a home improvement project, can be subject to scope creep. Is that feature really needed? Was it added at the last minute? We all get distracted in the creative journey, and the risk is that we keep getting further away from—or even lose sight of—the reason we started, the problem we wanted to solve. We need to stay true to what inspired us in the beginning to create the app. ART DIRECTOR, AARON LEA | INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO What are some common traps designers can fall into that result in an overly complicated user journey? One trap is elevating ego over empathy. If the designer doesn’t remove themself and try to see the user’s perspective, they can overly complicate the journey. Designers must constantly evolve, challenge themselves, and put themselves in others’ shoes. ART DIRECTOR, AARON LEA | INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO Another trap could be the designer finding a new design tool or method they want to use and deciding to use it in a particular product. Novelty is not a substitute for suitability. A good rule of thumb is, don’t force it if it doesn’t deserve to be there. Sometimes, designers get set in their ways. Just because it worked last time doesn’t mean it will work this time too. Or conversely, designers may reinvent the wheel. If the design worked the first time, there’s no need to rethink it. Time management is critical. With mobile apps, people remember the launch, the middle, and the endpoint. A trap could be spending too much time on incidental interstitial areas. Don’t focus all your time there. Take that time and instead pick the three most vital sections—the app’s beginning, the middle, and its exit—and make those experiences ones that keep users coming back. Meet InspiringApps’ Creative Director Aaron Lea We believe that Inspired Employees Make InspiringApps and that our diverse backgrounds, skills, hobbies, and perspectives are what make us a stronger team. Aaron Lea finds his inspiration steeped in pop culture, a tradition of art in his family, and a creative digital design process that enables him to put novel creations back into the world and inspire others as a result.
1 month ago