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What should mobile application design priorities be?

Careful planning must happen when developing a mobile application design. Read an expert's reasoning.

If you ask mobile users what's most important in an application, they're probably going to want it all. Features,...

performance and a slick UI , of course, but which should come first? Deciding what the mobile application design priorities should be from the start makes the most sense and it really depends on the application's use and expected rate of growth. And the stakes are huge -- if mobile apps fail to provide necessary features, fail to function properly, perform slowly or are difficult to navigate, they are useless for the business user.

Think about your reaction when you're in Microsoft Word or Apple Pages and suddenly the function you use every single day is no longer in the same spot, or doesn't function properly. The utter dismay and torment is unbearable for many. Others will immediately stop using the application. Word and Pages are not mobile applications, but the theory applies to both. Users expect mobile applications to function the same as the Web or desktop version without having to relearn the application or make the user dig to figure out how to use the mobile version.

If you want a mobile application design to be successful, it has to function as expected and be easily accessible, intuitive and fast enough not to annoy users. The biggest failure in mobile application design is not providing useful functions. For example, physicians need more than to be able to view a patient's orders and current vital signs. They require the ability to enter orders, change dosages or add details to the order for their support staff. It's nice to view the information, but it's totally useless when you need to act on information quickly.

With financial applications you have the same concerns. Viewing a customer's data is great, but what if changes are needed right now? The user's hands are tied until they can access the full application. They can view information but can't act on it directly or quickly and that makes the mobile application version essentially useless.

Application developers need to provide decent performance and a workable UI, but the main focus needs to be on providing useful functionality for users.

Next Steps

Designing apps for worker productivity

Mobile apps must differ from desktop apps

This was last published in July 2015

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What process do you follow to ensure your mobile apps are designed properly?
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