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.

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?

Rather Be Busy Than Bored : Business Update

My Business, PersonalKrishna SolankiComment

It's crazy how things can all happen at once.  The last time I wrote anything on my blog and business was before my family holiday and that was already 3 weeks ago (or was it 4 weeks ago?).  It's gone so quickly that I haven't even had time to breath and settle back into work/life.  I guess that's the reality of a side hustling business owner with a family.  I'm not complaining at all but just sharing why I have been MIA for a while.

I have lots of lovely updates to share and also lots of new things to reveal in the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for lots of interesting emails coming your way!

In the meantime, here's the super-duper down low on the latest on things going at the KSD headquarters! :)


Although more of a personal update, we had our first family holiday with my little one and husband this year. It was much needed and rather delayed but awesome.  I was rushed in preparing my business and my working life for the break and I have learnt the hard way again. I say "again" as it wasn't long ago that I suffered from bronchitis and promised I would do better to prepare myself for such things like illness. The problem was I literally ran out of time the run up to holiday and so had a million things to do on my return! - In fact, I'm still catching up!! - Lesson learnt for the future!

WellbeingZone Mobile App Design

Mobile App Design:

For the last few months, I have been working on designing a mobile app.  The mobile app is for the WellbeingZone, which is a white label wellness platform.  It may ring a few bells as I have previously worked on the WellbeingZone project. I created the brand identity, website design, iPhone and Andriod app icon and Facebook graphics.  This is a project close to my heart so I am truly grateful that I have been given the opportunity to work on the UX and UI for the mobile app.  More details coming soon!!

Website Audit Team:

Just before I went on holiday I had the pleasure to be asked to join a Website Audit Team for a fellow side hustler and friend, Tracey "Shakira" Minutolo.  Tracey reached out to me after I become a member of her Facebook group "Side Hustlers & Financial Freedomfighter".  The group is full of side hustlers who share their stories and their struggles in a community where we can "do more with the support of others who get it".  
The Website Audit Team is comprised of myself, Tracey and Jessica May Constable.  The idea behind the "showdown" is for group members to submit their website, along with some other details, and "The Team" will audit the website and social media providing awesome tips and advice on how to improve, update and better the design.
We are yet to audit our first website, that is planned for this week, so another one to keep your eyes peeled for!

Award Finalist:

Last but not least some exciting news!  Whilst trying to get into the swing of things and catching up I checked my email late one evening - school boy error as I could not sleep after reading the email! - In a nutshell, my side hustling freelance business has been nominated for the Cambridgeshire Digital Awards 2016.  I'm in the category for Marketing and Creative and am up against 6 others websites/agencies/businesses.  Epically excited and thankful for this, but also very nervous as the other nominations in the category are bigger businesses.
For now, its's the waiting game and to keep my fingers crossed.  (Wish me luck folks!!)

Cambridgeshire Digital Awards 2016 - Krishna Solanki Designs is a finalist!!

Etsy Diwali cards:

Finally, something that has been on my mind for ages, well since I started my Etsy Printables Shop is printable cards.  I missed the boat this year to create Raksha Bandhan cards, but figured I would test the waters on the Diwali card front. I'm not sure it will work, but no harm in trying.  I have some awesome plans for more printable cards in the near future as well, especially for Christmas so keep an eye out on my Instagram and Facebook for more details on this!!

So, there you have it. Literally a summary of what has been going on and going down in my world.
Feel free to share your busy moments and how you have dealt with them too, it's always a good thing to share!

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