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Importance of Platform Specific UI Design for Mobile Applications

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I have often heard people saying “Let’s keep the UI same for all the mobile platforms.”, “Is this app already designed for Android? Ok, let’s replicate it on iOS as well.”, “Client is okay compromising on the beautification of the app. It should just be functional.”.

In this series of blogs, I will explain as to why – as a customer, a marketing evangelist, and a developer; it is important to follow platform specific guidelines while designing mobile apps and why we need to keep our mobile application designs differentiated for respective platforms. There will be only 8-10% scenarios where we can keep the UI similar (not same still!).

I recently downloaded an application on my iPhone which was designed to run on both iOS and Android. Yes, the application is functional. It lets the user navigate, perform kinds of actions on different screens etc. But being an iOS user for the past 5 years, it was neither easy nor pleasing for me to understand the controls in the app. Few screens looked web-like, others looked Android-like. It took me a while to understand the overall flow of the application. The color scheme didn’t match to what my eyes are used to seeing in all other apps built for iPhone.

I am assuming that the product team failed to explain to the clients about how important it is to follow UI design paradigms of the specific platform for any mobile app. I am sure they would have loved the approach if they were informed about the importance of design. The overall look and feel, branding could have been kept same following platform-specific guidelines for navigation, animation, actions, colors, shadows, hues etc. Result – I uninstalled the app.

In my experience, creating similar looking UI design confuses and isolates the users. It is good to stick to native experience as the application would be predictable and easy to use. End users always expect an experience which is aligned with their platform.

Uninstallation & Bad Reviews –

In a recent survey it is shown that 60-70% of the people uninstall the app within the first day of installation. This is the last thing a company would want for its product. If the users don’t find an app easy to use in the first go, there is no second thought before they uninstall the app and write a bad review. In such scenarios, users tend to switch to the desktop.

This is also valid for an enterprise user. I have seen enterprise users taking the desktop route when they fail to relate to the application. And this voids the very purpose of an enterprise having invested in the app. Here is a survey which shows that around 42% of the uninstallations happen due to bad UI/UX.

Having said that, I would like to add that the decision to go with a common design approach for multiple platforms completely depends on the complexity of the app and its requirement.

Around 8-10% of the apps are mostly form filling apps or single page apps with ‘read only’ data. In such scenarios, going with a common design approach is considered to be a better solution in terms of ease of development and maintenance. Below is a simple example which showcases this scenario – The app below is a simple form which captures users’ response and communicates them to the server.

(A simple form filling application sharing the same design on Android and iOS) 

But when we talk about other apps which has more user interactions involved with a bigger set of data to deal with, it is better to stick with the platform specific design convention.

Whenever we begin to design our apps for any platform, it is very important to know and understand the design principles of that platform.

I will explain the differences between iOS and Android screen layout and how minor changes in the design effect user experience and adaptability in my next blog.

References –

  1. https://www.prlog.org/12254771-top-7-reasons-why-mobile-users-uninstall-apps.html
  2. http://iosdesign.ivomynttinen.com/
  3. http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/a-tale-of-two-platforms-designing-for-both-android-and-ios–cms-23616

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