Sep 19, 2023 By Geoff Parent 5 min
By Geoff Parent
Geoff is a writer and guest contributor to sidebar Magazine.
TL;DR: Regardless of what they are used for, the best and most widely used native apps blend dynamic, appealing visual elements and seamless functionality. These aspects of app design are key to maintaining excellent UX and delivering an immersive, user-friendly mobile experience. Here, we break down 9 user-first features that are must-haves in any popular app.
With users spending more time on mobile devices than ever before, good app design is not only about capturing users’ attention, but retaining it — your app’s interface should be one that they won’t hesitate to return to time and time again. Your users will turn to your app for a “job to be done” whether that is to access information or to complete a transaction. It’s up to you and your team to ensure your app minimizes the effort required by users and the friction they experience in completing that job to be done. Let’s cover some of the most important UX features that you should include in your native app.
Your app icon is often the first point of interaction a user will have with your mobile app. An icon that stands out in app stores and reflects your brand and your app’s purpose can have a positive influence on app rankings and visibility. Once an app is downloaded, the app icon will be seen by users every day on their device and is critical for driving re-engagement and retention.
Whereas Apple’s icons are square, Android Icons are circular in shape. It’s important to ensure your final icon image design is optimized for both platforms. Learn more about some app icon design best practices here.
From Google and Reddit to Facebook and YouTube, the world’s most visited websites and apps all allow users to enable dark themes as they browse. Dark mode can reduce the amount of “blue light” emitted by devices and it’s easier on the eyes at night or after prolonged screen use.
You can define dark mode colors in CSS. Typically, these will include a darker background color and lighter text/foreground colors. Your app will use dark mode CSS styling automatically when the device is in dark mode and you can add a toggle button to allow users to set dark mode for the app manually. See an example here.
Push notifications are a highly effective way of reaching your app users directly on their mobile devices with announcements, offers and other information in a way that is not possible when displaying your website in a mobile browser. These highly personalized notifications increase user engagement and retention, and allow you to target specific users at times when they are most likely to respond.
Even if you’re not intending to start sending push notifications right away, it’s best to configure your app so all users who download will have them available and you can start sending when you are ready. Otherwise, users will have to download an updated version of your app before you can send them push notifications.
From an accessibility and navigation standpoint, tab menus are very popular UI elements within native apps. They appear at the bottom of your app’s screen on both iOS and Android and can be configured with icons and/or text labels depending on your preferences. They allow for easy navigation between most commonly accessed pages and can help to create a task or experience-oriented app. You may choose to display the same native tab menu on all pages viewed through your app or you may configure different tab menus depending on the page.
While Android devices feature a “back” button, iOS devices do not. This means you will have to provide navigation links to ensure your users can navigate to where they would like to go within your app and that they do not get stuck on a page without links. Adding a contextual navigation toolbar to your iOS app will ensure users can easily get back to the prior page. This navigation element is especially useful if you have a lot of scrollable content and many links between pages.
If you’re developing an app that will inevitably contain a variety of links, you should establish clearly defined rules for which links will open internally within the webview of your app and which will open externally in the device’s web browser. By default, most links will open internally, the exception are commonly installed apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Maps — these will open externally in the browser or the respective app.
You may want URLs to external pages to open in the user’s browser rather than your app. For instance, if you’re commonly linking to news articles, you may want those to open in the browser/default app rather than your native app.
Streamlining your app’s signup and/or login process is an essential step of making your native app more user friendly. Enabling biometric and/or social login functionality can greatly reduce friction and help to streamline account creation and login flows for your new and existing users. This can ultimately lead to improved initial signup conversion and higher user retention rates. Best of all, these features provide ease of access for users while maintaining security.
Biometric login: By enabling Apple's Face ID/Touch ID authentication and Android’s Biometric Authentication, you can prompt your users to use their Face/Touch ID / Biometrics for future logins provided their devices are equipped with these features.
Social login: By adding social login buttons to your mobile or web applications, users can login using their existing Apple, Google or Facebook account information rather than creating a username and password for your specific app. These buttons can be used both during the initial sign-up process and and each subsequent time the user wishes to login to their account. Click here to learn more about enabling social login on your app.
In-app analytics can help you to better understand how users engage with and utilize your app. Not only does this help you understand user behavior within your app, it’s also a tool you can use to continuously improve the user’s experience and make your app successful over the long-term. While your existing web based analytics will continue to work in your mobile app, making use of Google Firebase Analytics with your iOS and Android apps will help you capture metrics unique to your mobile app, such as app installs, app open rates, etc.
It is important that your app includes some way for users to provide feedback to your brand. It should be a quick, easy and transparent process for all users to report bugs, suggest new features or provide criticism on your app’s functionality or design. Ultimately, this shows that you care what your users want, what matters to them and that you are willing to respond to their needs.
You can use third-party SDKs from providers like OneSignal to create custom click actions on your app. From creating polls to creating rating actions, there are plenty of options available to collect feedback. If you’re building your native app with Median, you can make use of the median_device_info() function to obtain valuable information on device type (iOS or Android), the version of your app that’s in use, the user’s timezone, etc. to add more data to the submission.
Regardless of the services your business or organization provides, the Median platform can help you build an optimized mobile app. Our highly intuitive native App Studio makes it easy to convert your existing website into a stunning feature-packed native app for both iOS and Android devices.
You can quickly create an app that leverages your existing web content and publish to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. We also offer an extensive library of native plugins to provide an even more enhanced user experience, reduce user friction and deliver an excellent UX. Median has published over 3500 native mobile apps and has a 97% approval rate submitting to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
It may only appear for the briefest of moments, but your app splash screen is key in creating an immersive in-app experience. Here are some things to keep in mind as you design one.
Thanks to Apple’s Live Activities feature, companies can now deliver timely, in-the-moment information that lives on a user’s iPhone Lock Screen and Dynamic Island. Even better: it’s easy for Median.co customers to launch this quickly when they use OneSignal’s API and SDK support for this exciting new feature.
Push notifications are an increasingly popular form of mobile app messaging, and can help you reach users on their mobile devices with offers, news, and other pressing information. They’re meant to be read and to promote action — which is why you should use these strategies when writing them.