In today's competitive mobile app market, aesthetics are key.
In today’s competitive mobile app market, aesthetics are key.

Many elements make a good app, but one of the most crucial is the visual design. The user experience, which improves the usability and accessibility of the app, may be central to the consumer’s use of the app, but developers can’t ignore the user interface, or the aesthetic part of the app.

Why is visual design important?

Aesthetics set the tone for the app in ways both subtle and overt. We judge things by how we see them, first and foremost. If an app isn’t inviting, nice to look at or well-designed, people are less likely to engage in it for long.

Perhaps you don’t have any formal experience with the arts or design. Maybe you don’t consider yourself as visually creative. This, however, does not give you an excuse to ignore the user interface. Even if you want to leave the design to somebody else with “more experience,” it doesn’t take long to imitate and teach yourself some of the basic rules, so you can create something impressive on your own, and have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t at the very least.

Is there any good advice for design?

Erik Kennedy called himself “a UX designer with no UI skills,” but he taught himself the art of UI by analyzing, observing and imitating what works, and building his skills gradually. In his 2-part article, 7 Rules for Creating Gorgeous UI, he delivers no-nonsense advice for those with little to no experience in design.

In his articles, Kennedy gives several useful tips of the trade to get those who are not as design-oriented to think about aesthetics. His advice is mostly practical and easy to replicate.

Examples of design application

Good apps employ shadows to some degree, for example. A recent trend in design has been to ditch heavy shadows, gradients and detail, in exchange for making interfaces flat, clean and simple. A notable example of this is what iOS 7 did when it was released to iPhone users around the world.

Although clean and flat is stylish and a good path to take, designers shouldn’t ignore the importance of subtle light and shadow, Kennedy said. When we use shadows and light, it gives users natural cues on what buttons to press, and what to tap and slide when they’re using the app. Furthermore, it gives the app some perceived substance.

Kennedy also talks about other important guidelines to follow, such as picking a subtle color scheme that works well together and isn’t overwhelming, and placing text where it is most readable and can work with the images around or under it. Whitespace, or the space in between the text in your app, is also crucial for the balance and readability of what you’re displaying.

What’s the best way to learn?

Most importantly, though, a novice designer with no formal training should pay attention to what the designers are doing, and attempt to replicate that before coming up with their own theories and designs. There is a reason why trends are going a certain way, and why some apps work. Imitation can get you far, and it can teach you a lot about a part of app design that is more important than ever.

For more information on what good UI can look like, along with some other valuable mobile design resources, visit Kennedy’s article:

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