User Experience

Mobile App Design Principles

mobile app design principles

With extensive adoption of smartphones and apps all around, a thorough understanding of mobile app design principles is indispensable when building a mobile app.

In this talk, Jenny Gove, Google’s UX Research Lead, talks about a UX study carried out by Google to identify the most recurring usability problems faced by users when using mobile apps. The findings of this study is discussed in this article.

There are over 1.5 million apps in each of the App Store and Google Play Store, 25% of which are used just once and never again. 34% more are used 11 times or less. In this environment of cutthroat competition, possessing a good grasp of various mobile app design principles could go a long way in ensuring that your app stays on in your users’ smart phones.

In order to understand what causes app abandonment a UX study was conducted by Google. 103 participants were invited to Google’s premises and asked to complete a specific task on a mobile app using their own mobile phone. They were observed while they attempted to complete the task. Usability problems faced by the participants were noted down. These problems were then categorised and compiled into a final list of the top 25 most frequently occurring usability problems. A few of those 25 items are listed below.

App navigation & exploration

A frustrating app navigation experience can be a deal-breaker for many users.

Location Auto-detection

One such frustrating experience that often comes up is location auto-detection. While auto-detection of location is undoubtedly a very helpful feature on apps, it would be even more helpful if there were an option to manually change the location, without having to go to Settings. This is most relevant to the Travel and Retail industries, when you may way want to buy a product or service that is nowhere near your current location.

App to Mobile-web Transfer

In the unavoidable scenario of an app to mobile-web transfer, the Product team should ensure that users enjoy a seamless transition, by working with mobile web and-app teams simultaneously to provide an almost similar look-and-feel in both platforms.

In-app search


Searches are a significant part of a great in-app user experience and its utility can barely be overstated. It is important to not be miserly in allotting screen real estate to the search field. It should be featured prominently (complete with the looking-glass icon) and not under a menu.

Filter and Sort

The Filter and Sort option is another hugely important detail that is often hidden, buried or completely ignored which could save users a great deal of time and effort.

Commerce and Conversions


Adding comparison features to shopping apps (be it gadgets or real estate) would be crossing a major hurdle in satisfying customers, especially those who want to make carefully researched purchases.

Payment Options

Users are bound to have a great experience if there are options wherein it is possible to edit card information or add new cards. It would be even better if multiple payment methods are incorporated and card scanning was an option.


Sign in / Sign up

Clearly distinguish between ‘Sign In’ and ‘Sign Up’, so that users don’t attempt to sign up using the sign in form and vice versa. One simple way is to use the word ‘Register’ instead of Sign up so that a clear distinction is made.

Fingerprint Authentication

Fingerprint authentication and Smartlock should not be viewed as too futuristic anymore as it has proved to considerably reduce the Sign-in hurdle.

Form Entry

Scroll and Autocomplete

Moving the form up the field as the user keeps entering details will give her an idea of the questions to be answered. Also, enabling the autocomplete feature, especially the Places autocomplete feature for location fields will lead to a more comfortable experience.


Having the text keyboard and numeric keyboard pop up automatically when required at the appropriate input fields is a minor but handy detail.

Usability and Comprehension

Text labels for Icons

Not everyone might understand what exactly the icons you use stand for. When in doubt, definitely add text labels to the icons.

User permissions

Lastly, ask for permissions in context. A request to use the users’ location right when the app is opened for the first time will most likely be ignored and come across as unnecessary. But the same request will be granted when the users are looking for a certain product or service in their vicinity. In this case, the users have a motivation to do so and are sure that the information will be used to aid them in their search.


Using the above principles when designing mobile apps will likely result in a higher level of satisfaction among users and ultimately lead to better engagement of users with your app and business. We strongly recommend that you read the rest of the mobile app design principles, by going to .

You may also like
Using Gestalt Principles in Web Design to Improve UX
Autocomplete/ Autofill as an important subset of Great Form Design UX