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Mobile Development

Mobile Development Best Practices: Usability

The basic concept of Usability refers to the interaction of an individual with the technology interface. If the individual is able to seamlessly perform tasks when using an app based on the icons, graphics, gestures available on the screen, then the app is said to exhibit good usability.

The challenges of mobile application usability are everywhere and numerous best practices can be applied across all platforms. Here are a few of the most important usability considerations:

  • Think carefully about the limited screen real estate. Only exhibit the most relevant options or information on the screen.
  • UI screen elements and menus should not be disarranged within infrequently used options; rather they should be buried deeper within a settings screen or a submenu.
  • If a feature is used on a regular basis, consider assigning it to make it promptly available within the UI.
  • For the sake of accessibility, avoid the use of small font sizes in order to cram more information onto the screen.
  • Scrolling in mobile applications can be difficult for the end user, so limit the need to scroll within screens where possible.
  • When displaying information, make use of the Summary / Detail / Edit UI paradigm. A ‘Summary’ view displays the most important and relevant information and actions to the user. To access less important, or less commonly used information, the user can then drill down to a more complete ‘Detail’ view. If the user needs to edit the information, switch to an ‘Edit’ view that will provide richer functionality around editing, validating, and persisting the data. Factor in the lighting conditions.
  • For both enterprise and consumer applications, consider whether the application will be primarily used indoors or outdoors. If the application will be used in low light or sunlight conditions, make use of high contrast and sufficiently bright colors. If the application is to be used in specific locations, such as a warehouse or factory floor, ensure that the application has undergone appropriate testing in the target setting.
  • Ensure that UI elements are sized appropriately. Each platform will have separate specifications for minimum button sizes relative to the screen resolution of the devices.
  • Take into consideration the conditions in which the mobile application will be used – for example, if an application will be used on a warehouse floor, the users of the application may be wearing gloves and would require larger buttons and increased spacing between UI elements.

  • In summary, remember that at the end of the day, usability is one of the key elements that will make or fracture user acceptance of an application. Google, Apple and Microsoft (the main mobile platform software vendors) have provided specific guidelines to their own platforms in an attempt to promote a consistent look and feel across all of them.

    The increasing number of mobile apps in the stores has challenged developers to create apps of superior quality in order to compete. Usability is one important aspect of the quality of mobile apps. In addition, the architecture of these applications must take into account a number of design constraints, such as vendor guidelines,data entry models,  limited resources, connectivity problems, and the varying display resolutions of mobile devices.


    Fernando V.

    Born in Sinaloa and former military, Fernando is a talented photographer and extreme sports fan; he is the type of guy who will bring the party with him whenever and wherever. He is part of our Mobile developer team and has a Computer Systems Engineering degree with 10 years of experience as software developer. He writes for the Inflection Point’s blog about really interesting topics that will give you insights regarding trending development subjects.