For the technically inclined, mobile app design might engender thoughts of architecture, speed or function. For the creatives among us, mobile app design might concern color palettes, branding elements or navigation flow. For the business minds, mobile app design might entail bottom line costs, new potential customers, better connections with existing ones and the possibility of improved savings or greater revenues. The fact is, mobile app design is all of these things. For an app to achieve peak success, it requires great aesthetic design, rock-solid technical design and exacting business planning. What many people might not realize, though, is that an app’s aesthetic design is more than just vanity — it can have a very real impact on the bottom line too.
Even though you might not realize it, one of the biggest announcements from Apple in the last couple of years was iOS 7. It completely overturned the Jobs-era fascination with tactile design features (like in the game center, you could see the felt on the table; you could see the curve of the glass on Safari’s compass logo) and replaced them all with a flattened, elegant and clean operating system. iOS 8 has followed in the same vein.
The success of Apple’s new design paradigm has bled into the desktop as well. Yosemite, Apple’s newest desktop operating system, has incorporated the vast majority of the aesthetic changes Apple made with iOS 7 and 8. The operating system’s look has been simplified, the design flattened. The entire look and feel has been altered to reflect their new push toward simplicity and elegance. This is yet another example of a major technology company remaking their desktop product to be more like their mobile product.
The Apple example serves as testament to the importance of aesthetic designs. Apple wouldn’t be making such a drastic shift if there wasn’t a business reason behind it. Even if you’re fully focused on technical design or business concerns, the look and feel of your app is paramount. It’s not design for design’s sake; your app doesn’t need to be “pretty” just because it’s nicer to look at. And it’s true that agency-designed apps are often “cool” or attractive at the expense of functionality or reliability. While the technical functionality of the app is key, aesthetics do affect adoption, usage and customer satisfaction as well. Apple understands these interrelations and designs all their products to reflect these related concerns.
If your app is difficult to navigate, hard to operate or doesn’t make immediate sense to your target audience, it doesn’t matter how well it’s built or how much money it could save/earn for you — people hate using apps that aren’t intuitive and visually appealing. The best applications incorporate a balanced approach to design, pulling from aesthetic, technical and business concerns equally. It would be ill-advised to shortchange one for the others, even in today’s enterprise-focused mobile landscape. Yes, apps need to deliver real business returns and quantifiable ROI; the best mobile solutions partners understand aesthetic design is a very real component of achieving that end goal.
As it turns out, the world’s largest technology company does too.