Every mobile app development project starts with research. Since design is merely a form of communication, you have to know what you’re communicating. If you don’t know what your product is, or how it works, then you can’t expect to design a mobile app that meets the needs of your customers.
When starting a mobile app development project, your customers needs usability first and foremost, and then style.
Wireframes outline the basic structure and flow of an application from screen to screen as a user moves through the application, detailing what features exist on each screen. The route users take to navigate a mobile application is detailed in its wireframes and has the greatest impact on the usability of the application.
For example, applications commonly begin with a splash screen when launched, and splash screens often include a loading icon as a cue to the user that the next screen is coming.
An application can then move onto a login or home screen, with each screen providing a unique opportunity for developers to simplify and streamline the application’s user interface.
Here are other common usability decisions that need to be considered:
- Will your app integrate login information with social networks?
- Will you allow users to stay logged into the app?
- Will you let users register inside the app?
- Will you include only the most important navigation items in the menu?
Navigation items are not created equal. It is best to let users reach the most important tools quickly, displaying only essential options on each screen. Users become overwhelmed if they are given too many choices at one time – break tasks and information into small easily digestible pieces.
In select scenarios, you may find yourself working on the design concepts of your app before creating wireframes. This happens most often when your mobile app development project is still in the idea formation stage. If your company is looking for something new, you may want to work up a quick design treatment to see how the app is going to look and feel before proceeding.
Taking this track can help you develop blue sky ideas that you can pull back in later to enhance functionality. This also gives you a better sense of your app while working up wireframes in black and white.
The trick is to remember that it’s okay to work up a palette or rough mockup to work from in wireframes, as long as you’re okay letting these designs change to make usability easier as you work through the mapping.
While working on wireframes, some specs may change to better fit the usability of your mobile app. Many items in design concepts are FPO (for placement only) because at this stage you cannot be 100% sure how an item will function.