L01CH05-01In my online class, I teach 4 rules of mobile app design:

1. Design with mobility in mind. In other words, keep in mind that mobile devices are called mobile devices for a reason — people use them while moving or while not at their desks. This is, perhaps, the most controversial of my rules, because many people would argue (and do) that people are increasingly using “mobile” devices as their primary computer. However, I stand by my rule. You design differently for smartphones vs. desktop computers because smartphone apps are more often used by people who may have something else that’s the primary thing they’re doing (working out, shopping, running, riding the bus).

2. Design for simplicity. Photoshop is a great desktop application. It would make a horrible mobile app if all of its features were simply copied over. Mobile forces you to make tough choices about “what to leave in, what to leave out.”

3. Design for people. This is an important rule for any type of system that’s going to be used by people. Create as clear a picture as you can of the people who will be using your app. Give them names. Make up stories about them.Actually make them, if you have the technology. The closer you can get to having real people using your imaginary app before you even start building it, the better.

4. Design for different devices. Finally, if you’re designing for mobile, you’re really designing for hundreds or thousands of different configurations of screen sizes and capabilities. Especially if you’re going to work with the mobile web, don’t get super-attached to any pixel-perfect layout, because it’s not going to work for everyone. Keep your design flexible, and test on as many devices as you can get your hands on.

In the assignment for Lesson 1, I ask my students to come up with a way to remember these 4 rules — a song, or an acronym, or a mnemonic device for example. Here’s one of my favorites answers of all time:

App Design
Design for one on the go,
Perhaps like someone you know.
Simplicity’s nice,
For every device,

To help your successfulness grow.

Have a great day!


Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started! Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

The 4 Rules of Mobile App Design