Where would you – or indeed anyone else – be without apps? From the initial word processing app produced by Microsoft for desktop computers to the proliferation of apps for laptops, smartphones, and tablets, it’s hard to know what we’d do without access to them.
As the internet generation is now moving inexorably to the mobile generation, and developers continue to dream up new ideas for apps for all devices – though especially mobile ones – it’s useful to get an overview of the trends that are coming in not just for mobile apps but also for the wider world of web design.
It may not have been long ago when the only apps you used were your office software – tools such as spreadsheets, PowerPoint, word processing and the like. Then came GPS and the sudden ability to enter location and get directions (though some large vehicles have encountered problems when sent down very small roads!).
App developers work to design what will be useful for users, and though some don’t always get it right, there are plenty that do. What’s interesting is that UI design may well be transformed by major changes in hardware, but other trends are as likely to be influenced by the popularity of mobile apps as the younger generation turn away from voice calls and use text and other social media platforms to communicate with their peers.
Many younger people have no idea what dial-up internet was, and have reaped the benefits of broadband and digital communications as they have grown up. As mobile tech has developed apace, there are app design trends that will be an important part of not just 2016 but also the next few years.
This may not seem to be about apps, but it is. Mobile screens are getting larger because that’s what consumers want, and whether you call them phablets or big phones doesn’t matter – though it’s likely that phablets will become the name of choice. As more and more people use mobile apps, they want easier access to visuals and text options, so larger screens appear to be the answer.
This means that app designers will be looking at how to develop their products as people start to cradle their device, holding it in one hand and operating it with the other, more like a tablet. UX design is likely to get a more universal approach across tablets and smartphones.
Adding depth and weight
Minimalism and flat design have been part of the way designers have presented their ideas to consumers, but there are moves afoot to give objects on flat screens more of a physical presence. Using transparency and layers, depth can be added to the visuals. Google’s Material Design manifesto, for example, is looking to develop depth and presence in the apps, even though they look flat and stick to a strict grid. The components behave like moveable objects, not just as partitioned items seen on the screen.
Engaging, not patronizing
Good communication is the key to any idea, and that’s certainly the case with apps. If you have an app that makes you feel you’re not a part of the conversation, then the chances are that you’ll try it out and then dump it. Apps are becoming much more user friendly in that they want to draw you in so that you feel part of something bigger, but also get the job that’s needed done effectively. It’s easy to become intimidated by what you have on your mobile when you’re just trying to do something relatively straightforward.
Good app design studios developing popular iPhone and Android apps are at the cutting edge of modern trends, and provide a great example of the innovation and imagination that goes into them. Making you feel part of the conversation is one way that mobile app developers are responding to the issue of communication – the last thing you want is to feel someone is talking down to you. If you feel that’s what’s happening, then the app developer hasn’t done a good job.
You need to choose what you want your apps to do for you. Wearables can measure your calorie intake and heart rate, and for some people that can be very useful. Apps may well develop so that when you go to a bus or train station, you’ll be offered an option to buy tickets; or they could give you a list of places you could eat in at lunch or dinnertime. It’s your decision as to what you want apps to offer you.
As mobile technology develops, so too will the plethora of apps available. Decide what level of possible intrusion you’re comfortable with, and take it from there.