Krishna Solanki Designs

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6 Mobile App Design Lessons Learned The Hard Way

DesignKrishna SolankiComment

As a Designer in both my side hustle business and my part-time employment, I get to work on various different projects - branding, website design, collateral creation for print, flyers, icons, illustrations...The list really is endless.   But what makes my job more interesting is that I often get the opportunity to work on a project such as Mobile App Design.
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It's not the first time I have designed a mobile app, but it is the first time I have worked on the whole project from start to finish - and by that I mean, creating the personas, then mapping out the user experience and last but not least, actually designing the user interface.

Along the way, I learnt quite a few things and today I wanted to share these lessons with you.

Krishna Solanki Designs - 6 Mobile App Design Lessons Learned The Hard Way

1 | Understanding the user

1.1 Creating Personas

When designing a mobile app it is crucial to know who your users are.  I mean how do you design an app when you don't know who will be using it? the best way to understand who your users are would be to create some personas.  Personas are characters that are fictional and have been created based on the target user. So far example, I created 2 personas - John and Tracey -  to capture the real-life user that would be using the app I designed.

  •     John - a new mobile app user, 60-year-old, Postman,
  •     Tracey - an existing user, actively uses a fitness tracker, 29 years old, nurse, with odd shift patterns.

As you can see these personas are two very different users and so the journey through the app and the design would need to meet both requirements.  This is where User Scenarios would come into play.

1.2 User scenarios

Being able to determine how John or Tracey will use the app helps to design the User Interface as it makes me think about the best way for each user to achieve their end goal of using the app.
ie, John may want to count his steps, whereas Tracey may want to track her sleep pattern.  Both the users have different requirements which can be met if the user interface and journey are correctly thought through by creating scenarios.  These scenarios also help to map out the User Experience.

1.3 User Experience (UX / UX Design)

The user experience is the flow of actions that John or Tracey will carry out whilst they are using the app.  The User Scenarios can help map out the journey and the experience the user has is based on the design, content and flow.  Everything needs to be thoroughly thought through.


2 | Research is definitely required

Based on the above, you can see A LOT of research is required in mobile app design.  From personas to scenarios, to user experience, actions, design, and testing.
Research is key to any mobile app design. I would even say that in order to understand how to design an app, it's important to understand how to USE an app, and therefore researching into using apps is very important. It helps to use different apps by researching what you like/dislikes about the interactions, the layout, the fonts, the ease of gestures (ie. swipe to delete).  This is also great for inspiration!


3 | Inspiration is important for learning

There are only so many different ways to design the same interface.  For example, when designing the onboarding screens, I looked at what other app designs were like.  There are some natural similarities.  The same basic elements of an image/icon, a sentence or two of text, a "next" button, a "skip" button and also an indication of how many "onboarding elements" or swipes until the end of this particular step.
The key thing I learnt was that although I was greatly inspired, I was also learning.  I was learning that the "skip" button is deliberately placed in the bottom right-hand corner of the design as this is the easiest, and provides the better experience for the user if they wish to skip this section.

4 | Wireframing is a must

This is such a crucial step.  I found I was working out the journey and then listing the steps and screens that would need to be designed in order to reach the end goal of that particular journey. But before the design stage can start, it's best to wireframe each screen so that it is easier to understand any gestures that need to be designed for.  It was helpful creating the wireframes as I could then also "tick" them off the list as the project started getting bigger and bigger.
I also found it to be a good idea to use a mobile UX wireframing kit which meant I didn't need to create every single element for the wireframe - this was a life saver, and time saver, as I only needed to add the elements I wanted to use to make up the wireframe.   Naturally, I had to introduce a new learning element, and so I used Sketch to create the wireframes.  Sketch is professional digital design app for Mac that is quite powerful, flexible and quick and easy to use.  I have to say, I hope to use it more going forward!

5 | Design using a UI template

Once the wireframing stage is done - and by that I mean, as well as it can be without forever tweaking each screens wireframe - it's time to design the app!  All that research, thinking and creating can finally be taken forward.  I chose to use Photoshop to design the app, but looking back I maybe should have used Sketch - more on this in another blog post, coming soon!
When I started on the design I took it upon myself to ensure every element from the "status" bar at the top of the tab bar at the bottom was perfectly aligned and exactly how it should be based on other app designs. I didn't want any element to be out of place or misaligned even by a pixel and so I used a grid and a UI Kit to get me started.  The rest of the vision came from me and thepreviously designed brand elements.  I learnt the basic elements - heading styles, spacing, button sizes, need to be created with attention to detail as time spent on their elements can make the world of difference later, and this will also create a strong foundation for the app as well.
In mobile app design, details are important. Using the right font in the right place can make or break the app design in terms of making it look outstanding to mediocre.  Being able to navigate around the app, especially if manyjourneys can be made is key.  If the users can't find what they are looking for or they can't navigate because of a slight error in design then the app experience will be bad.
The design needs to be intuitive, clear and attractive.

6 | File management is crucial

One major lesson I learnt the hard way was that file management is really important.  My Photoshop file became MASSIVE by the end of the project and trust me, it was not pretty trying to open and make changes to the file.  Given how well I got on with Sketch, I think that is definitely something to look into for future mobile app designs.

Mobile app design really requires a great deal of thinking, learning, experimenting and testing. Now that I have shared my 6 lessons that I learned about mobile app design I really hope that they are useful for you.

Have you ever designed a mobile app? Or have you recently had a mobile app designed for your business? How did it go?

Why it's Important to Have Brand Consistency + Example + FREE checklist

BrandingKrishna SolankiComment

Being a designer and working in the creative industry - professionally and in my side gig - I really see the benefits of creating and maintaining a consistent brand.  It's really important no matter what size your business is or how far along you are.  Whether a startup or a side hustler, quality, consistent, branding can set you apart from your competition and help you to attract your ideal clientele.  That is why it is important to get it right.

It's not uncommon for people to assume that a brand is just a logo or a website.  Sorry to break the news folks, but that's not the case.  Branding is sooo much more than just a logo or website.  For starters, branding includes visual impact (digital and print), communication, and also customer experience.  These elements together build your brand and can have a major impact on your business.

Why its important to have brand consistency - FREE branding checklist.jpg

Example : J's Jewels

Let me explain. So you have a beautiful business selling hand-made jewellery.  You realise there is a market for your niche product and you have all your stock ready to sell to all those people who want to buy your product.

You know your handmade goods are being created with the best jewels and gems going. The labour put into creating these one-off pieces is time-consuming, but so worth it.  You are happy with your business name too.

At this stage, you have everything you need to really take your business off the ground.

So what's the next step you may think?  Well, people will be able to find you if you have a website! So then you start putting together a website but realise its harder than it looks.  Nonetheless, you carry on and put together a site the best you can.

Then you realise you could promote your jewellery with a few flyers, print some business cards for yourself and also create some awesome thank you cards to really elevate the service of quality goods you create.

The Problem

Whilst you were designing the site, creating your flyers, printing your business cards in preparation to sell your beautiful products, you made some shortcuts - You quickly put together a logo, decided you liked certain colours as they are your favourite, and you botched together a website because it's so easy to do on Wix….

It doesn't really matter that the fonts are different, does it?..and you begin to like the fact that the logo is different on your website to your flyers and business card - you think it keeps it interesting.

Let me stop you there...what does that say about your brand?  about your business?

I can tell you that the inconsistency is doing way more damage than you think.  Even though you don't realise it you are indirectly hindering yourself.

Logo

This will most likely be the main visual element that your customers will associate with your business.  By changing this on different mediums - website to flyers - you may think it's keeping it interesting, but in fact, it is misleading. Your customers will most likely be confused as they won't be able to associate the two different logos being for the same business. When have you ever seen Coca-cola or Starbucks using 2 different logos?

Tip - Having a variation of your primary logo is fine, as it still relates to your business and the original design is kept intact.

Colour Palette and Fonts

Colours and fonts may seem like wishy-washy elements, after all.. Red is red, right?…Drastically changing the colours you use on your flyers and printed material to your website can have the same effect as using two different logos. It doesn't build trust. It builds inconsistency.  

Tip - Ensure you have a set colour palette, and, at least, a primary font for your businesses visual brand.

Website and Social media

Although there are quite a few sites that you can build your own website with, it doesn't mean it's easy. Using "one of your logos" and adding colours that really "catch your customers eyes" doesn't necessarily mean its good design or design that is helping you make sales or convert users into customers.

What is your tone of voice like on your website?  Is it professional or relaxed?  and before you think it doesn't matter, read on….

Facebook is great isn't it - you can make a Facebook page to promote your product and keep your customers in the loop.  You can even share your latest range and talk directly to your customers.  Will you share posts that are more personal or will you keep the nature of your business page more professional?

Tip - Ensuring the tone of voice, messaging and communication is in line with your brand is important.  It reassures your customers that you are real, that you are not a fraud.  Regards to your website; is it easy to navigate? Is it suitable for mobiles and tablets?

Business cards and other printed material

Although these elements are "smaller", they are still impactful.  Printing a professional business card and delivering a service or a product that lacks professionalism or vital information is by far a rookie mistake and one that has serious consequences.

Tip - Do these elements contain all the right information, i.e. the right logo, links to your website, etc?

The Solution

In the example above, J's Jewels creates high quality, hand made, bespoke jewellery.  The product may be brilliant and beautiful, but to deliver the product, the quality and that experience through a brand and website requires more than a quick fix or a rushed "short-cut" approach.  It requires a little more thinking.

That is why I wanted to provide a simple branding checklist for you and your business, whether that be a startup, established a small business, or a side hustle.

Don't forgot the necessities in making sure your brand and business are up to scratch, check them off your list to ensure you are creating a consistent brand and message when building your business.  This is especially useful if you don't have time to think of what you need to do!

New Brand and Website for My Sweet Success

Branding, Design, Portfolio, Startup, Client Case StudyKrishna SolankiComment


The scary thing about starting a new business is that sometimes you may not realise what you want with regards to design or that you have everything in mind and you are trying to make it happen but you lack the design experience or design know-how.
When you want your business up and running, and you've tried to make the website yourself but it's just not quite right and you don't have the time to fix it...what do you do?

It's always a treat to work with a client that has done as much as they can themselves but they realise they need help; they have a better understanding of the project in hand and are happy to delegate the job.

Well, that is exactly what Lynne Taggart of My Sweet Success did.
When Lynne contacted me she already knew what she was after and needed a professional to take care of it.  She had a logo which had been previously designed but was looking for a brand and Squarespace website.  After a consultation she realised she would also like a new logo and so she signed up for the Startup package.

I'm really proud of the final product.  I have to say, its been an absolute joy to work on and I'm super happy to share the creative process today.

MSS - brand board

1 | Client homework

At the beginning of any project, I always ask my clients a set of questions about their business vision and goal for their brand and website.  As part of this client homework, I also ask them to pin some images they feel represent their vision on a Pinterest board.

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I love this part of the project as I get to see what my clients are really drawn too and this ultimately sets the brand.
Lynne said her ideal client will be an entrepreneur in her 20s/30s and desires a laptop lifestyle with the freedom to travel.  She used the following adjectives to describe the feeling of her brand "luxurious, feminine, powerful".

I couldn't help but peek at Lynne's Pinterest board and I was so excited!! Her board were exuding with luxury and femininity. I could wait to get started!!

pinterest screengrab.jpg

2 | Moodboard

Going through Lynne's Pinterest board and finding the pins I felt best suited her adjectives was straight forward.  I compiled the images to created a moodboard

MSS - moodboard

The cerise pink added so much brightness to the board, and the gold gave it the luxury feel.  The blush colour of the pink roses gave it the feminity, softening the whole brand altogether. yet the strong burgundy and black bought in the power aspect.

A moodboard is great for a few reasons. Not only does it ensure Lynne and I are on the same page with the direction of the visual brand elements but it also helps me develop the next stages of the project.

3 | Logo
 

One of the main elements that really stood out on the moodboard was the idea of a rose.  Lynne also really liked this aspect and was keen to incorporate this into the logo.  I kept that in mind and after a few revisions these were the 3 final concepts that were developed.

MSS - logo concepts

Lynne loved this direction as the rose was just the perfect prominence against the monogram MSS.  In previous iterations, I had created the rose with much more boldness but Lynne preferred the silhouette approach more.  I have to agree with her, this was the perfect balance of feminine and powerful.
Lynne chose the second logo concept, which I think is the best out of the three!

MSS - Final logo

After the logo was signed off I designed a secondary logo to give Lynne flexibility, and also created a variety of round versions of the primary.  The round versions are great for profile pictures.  I also created a submarket which, we used as the favicon for the website.

By creating these brand elements, it makes it easier to keep consistency on other elements like collateral.  So by this point Lynne is set up with a new logo, with variations, a colour palette, a submark and 2 fonts.  Her new brand is complete.

4 | Collateral
 

With the brand complete it's time to get started on the social media graphics.  In this case, Lynne didn't want any Twiter graphics and so we decided to swap this element for a PDF opt-in template instead.

MSS - collateral items

Using the colour palette I used the cerise pink as the main heading colours to really help elevate the feminine aspect.
I love how these all turned out.

5 | Website

Whilst working on the brand and collateral elements, Lynne has second thoughts about the Squarespace template choice.  Although this does change the project in hand to some extent it is best that Lynne is happy with her template choice before any work is carried out on designing her website.  So she was required to revisit her website requirements before moving forward.
It didn't take long for Lynne to decide on what she was really after and luckily this didn't hinder the timescales either.

Lynne was really keen on big imagery and getting new clients to sign up but also explain to her clients about how to achieve their life of luxury goals.  There really was a lot Lynne wanted to get across so to break up the page I included images and created "blush boxes" to break up the page and text.

MSS_homepage.jpg

The gold bar (under the main headings) and gold buttons really broke up the text as well and reinforced the luxury aspect.  I love the blush boxes too! they really helped break the pages up.
Click here to see it for yourself.
 

Lynne was a really awesome client to work with. She knew what she wanted from the start and wanted to take that worry off her mind.  I delivered an awesome brand and website with collateral items to ensure Lynne has a professional look to her new business.

What do you think about this new brand and website for My Sweet Success?