Design Guidelines for Mobile Apps

Since I have been swimming in my final paper for 690 all morning, I thought I would just continue. For my Master’s project I have designed a mobile app that awards points to students for positive behaviors. In the beginning of my project development a lot of time and energy went into the actual design, aesthetics and workflow, of the app. However, it wasn’t until recently that I came across actual guidelines for the designing of a mobile app. And since we have a free week, I thought I would share with everyone my findings.

In my research I have found that rules for designing interactive systems have been around since the 1980s and where these obviously were not written with the iPhone in mind, they are still used to design user interfaces today. Ben Shneiderman co-wrote a book, Designing the User Interface, and in it he describes “Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design.” Prior to creating an app for my project, I knew of design rules, but only as they dealt with website creation and not necessarily something as interactive as a smartphone app. Below is a basic overview of the golden rules.


What I found interesting about these rules, are how intuitive they are. In the original designs of my app, I had attempted to incorporate quite a few of these without knowledge that they were a “rule”. Naturally I tried to create an app that was consistent. Consistent, as in, the same buttons, the same font family, the same colors, the prompts and commands. This one was common sense. Looking at all of the apps already in existence, I knew there needed to be the same theme throughout the whole of the app. I also guessed at the informative feedback from the beginning. I know that when I use an app I like to know that my operator actions worked. A change of color, a sound, or a pop up, to let me know that what I did was accepted by the system.

However, some of the Golden Rules were not as apparent until after I did a few of my usability tests. Yielding closure was one of the big topics when testing. Users like to have beginnings, middles and ends to their actions. It gives them a sort of satisfaction of accomplishment. For example,  in the original version of my app, the teachers were suppose to award students points. However, there was no confirmation that the task was ever completed. The user would press “submit” and go straight back to the previous page. I now know however, “The informative feedback at the completion of a group of actions gives the operators the satisfaction of accomplishment, a sense of relief, the signal to drop contingency plans and options from their minds, and an indication that the way is clear to prepare for the next group of actions”(“Shneiderman’s ‘Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design’ | Design Principles FTW,” n.d.).

Once the “submit” button was pressed users were not told whether their action was accepted.

So, where I should have dug deeper prior to the creation of my app, I am glad that I found this research. It has helped me explain why some elements of my app were not as accepted as others from the users.





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