5 Ways Experienced App Developers Avoid Bad UX Design

6 min read

The most common misconception about UX design is that a cute homepage will distract from a lack of app functionality.

Frank L.
Frank L.
Published July 1, 2022

However, as Steve Jobs said, “Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” Ultimately, your app's UX design will be what converts repetitive and engaged users.

A good UX design caters to a customer’s needs by enhancing the user experience and facilitating brand engagement. As such, avoid the following most common bad UX design mistakes and instead focus on UX design that contributes to brand loyalty and business performance.

1. Intuitive Onboarding Experience

The aim of UX design in the phase of onboarding is to lessen the learning curve and provide a fast solution to the problem users look to resolve when they choose your app.

Bad onboarding UX design leads to user frustration. The risk of a bad onboarding experience is users abandoning apps or downloading competitive apps. A study by Localytics showed that 25% of users abandon apps after a single use. Once users have convinced themselves to take the time investment to download an app, they will need a fast justification to convince them it was the right choice.

UserOnboard founder Samuel Hulick sums up the aim of onboarding nicely as “guiding people toward that up and running, cool, and capable stage. It’s less a question of getting people from A to B in your app and more from A to B in their lives.”

Therefore, in the activation stage of the user's journey, avoid long instructions and multistep features. A good UX design will shorten the user's time value to achieve their desired action.
Another example of good onboarding practices is to avoid blank activity feeds once they’re registered. Instead, offer your users options of “Who to follow” or “ Follow Interests” board, as this creates an immediate action for new users.

2. Clear and Straightforward Home Screen

An app’s home screen is the center of all functions and information. As such, a homepage aims to direct the user's attention to points of interest quickly.

An overcrowded home screen is a symptom of bad UX design. Inherently, it indicates a failure to understand the customer's needs and journey.

When describing factors that contribute to poor UX design, David Moise, founder and president of Decide Consulting, says, “We have all experienced going to a site to read a news article and having to wade through multiple pop-ups, sliding bars, and other things getting in the way. These all contribute to a bad UX.”

In the case of homepage design, simple is better, even if the design aspect challenges UX designers to truly understand their customers and their journey.

Each homepage will be different due to the nature of each app offering a unique solution. However, good practices to declutter home screens are clear navigational tabs that are straightforward to understand, using contrast to highlight important actions, avoiding long pages that require a scroll down, and using words over icons to prevent misunderstanding.

3. Organized App Architecture

An app’s architecture is the foundation for ease of use and functionality. The aim of an organized app architecture is to contribute to the user's ability to fulfill their objectives with ease and avoid navigation problems.

The first sign of bad UX app architecture is the level of complexity in finding actions. Ideally, users should have a clear direction of what to click, where they are, and how to find new information.

Chris Mears in CareerFoundry gives a clear example of leveraging customer research to create a solid app architecture: “One of the main use cases for mobile is killing time. But that doesn’t mean you should waste that of your users. Make sure you understand the main tasks they want to accomplish on your app through research and make those the focus of the interface.”

To improve app architecture, consider the structure of information and the navigation between tasks. Each individual screen page should store the necessary information and clear next step instruction to flow effortlessly into the next stage of a process.

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A good starting point to improve app architecture is to categorize navigation by using a content inventory. This involves categorizing and auditing what should live on each page by similarity and user goals. Once the content audit is completed, each category should be mapped out by relationship with one another. The goal is for the elements to flow into one another, be kept separate, and make it easy for the user to fulfill an action or find information.

4. Supportive Feedback and Next Step Communication Channels

In-app communication is a helpful resource to alleviate frustration and clarify doubts. The role of communication in apps can come in different forms. On one side, communication informs the user that a certain action has been completed. For example, “Your payment details have been processed.” This clearly tells the user what has been accomplished and removes any uncertainty.

On the other side, communication can serve as guidance for users to understand what the next steps in a process entail.

The assumption that a user will automatically know what the next step is can be misleading. As Don Norman, director of the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), says, “What makes something simple or complex? It’s not the number of dials or controls or how many features it has. It is whether the person using the device has a good conceptual model of how it operates.”

Communication can quickly become a bad UX design mistake when the next steps are left unclear, actions are misinterpreted, or when help is unattainable.

In fact, a case study with Dealer-FX showed an increase in user retention by 90% after including a chat API to solve customer issues instantly. Dealer-FX was able to listen to their customers, drive engagement, and improve the user experience on the app by providing instant connections between car owners and dealerships.

To improve communication, implement feedback and clear next steps for each action that is taken in the app. Moreover, to avoid frustration, provide accessible in-app support to help users if they require further assistance. This ensures that they do not leave the app and that their problems are solved instantly.

UX design can sometimes fall victim to shiny new trends and practices. The moment the goals of UX trends and those of your audience misalign is when a bad user experience occurs.

For example, in 2018, Snapchat updated its UX design to follow a trend set by Instagram Stories, a growing competitor. The app pushed impersonal content from social media stars and brands and caused an uproar that left the company with 85% of its app reviews below one or two stars. Snapchat neglected the app’s appeal for users — to communicate and share images with friends.

“Many companies today chase design trends when they should be focused on creating a better UX design for their users. It is imperative that companies keep the consumer’s journey top of mind,” says Devaraj Southworth, co-founder and CEO of Thirstie.

When a new trend pops up, consider A/B tests first and refer back to your app architecture to find where new features belong along the chain of actions. You want to avoid distraction and only include functions that simplify the steps toward a user's goals. Doing so ensures that the new trend will improve the flow of information and experience.

Avoid Bad UX Design by Putting Your Users First

The basis of a “good” vs. “bad” UX design simmers down to the level of achievement the target audience feels when using the app.

To borrow another quote from Don Norman: “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.”

The most common mistakes in bad UX come from misunderstanding your audience. The simplest way to understand users is through research, two-way feedback, and chat support that is available when users struggle.

When creating an app, ask yourself the following questions: What features do my users need to succeed? What are they looking to feel? In which part of the user journey should this feature be included? How does it help my customer? And will they need extra support?

To effectively reach and communicate with your users without them leaving the platform or becoming frustrated when a problem occurs, consider an in-app chat API. The benefit of immediate communication channels can reduce points of friction and improve user engagement while it merges organically with your app’s interface.

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