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Apps World

Mobile App Design: How to Create the Perfect Balance of Design & Functionality

A strong design and a clear functionality are key when it comes to a successful mobile app. Here 99designs presents how to combine design and functionality in different ways in order to underline the unique value of your app.

According to Statista, there were 102 billion mobile app downloads around the world at the end of 2015. The same site believes there will be a staggering 268 billion app downloads in 2017. To say mobile app design is big business would be a gross understatement! There are seemingly thousands of apps created every day but a large percentage of them fail to find mainstream success.

There’s a school of thought that suggests you have to sacrifice design for functionality and vice versa. However, if you ignore design and only worry about functionality, users will probably hate the design of your mobile app so much that they’ll shut it down before exploring it capabilities. Likewise, focusing on aesthetics only may attract people initially but they’ll soon shut it down after discovering it is a case of Emperor’s New Clothes.


Design by Googa

In other words, you need to find the perfect balancing act between mobile app design and functionality and this is how it works:

Simplicity & Clarity

You’ll be amazed at the number of designers who still don’t understand the differences experienced by app users on desktops/laptops and mobile devices. For mobile users it’s all about touch so don’t force them to constantly scroll through screens before they finally get to their intended page.

A simple design is always the best option when designing a mobile app. I love the Arles Festival App because it is a prime example of how to mix design and functionality. First and foremost, this app only gives you the most crucial information regarding the festival. Unlike a desktop app where you have room for ‘secondary’ content, mobile apps must contain nothing but the essentials.

On the Arles Festival app you find additional information by clicking on a category. Users get just enough information to decide if they want to see an individual artist but not so much that their screen gets overloaded with text.

Define Your Target Audience

One person’s idea of great design will be very different to another in any case and this difference of opinion is greater still when it comes to mobile app design as there are countless categories to choose from. A food lover is likely to have very different ideas about design and functionality to someone interested in health and fitness for example.

The Kundalini Yoga app is an excellent example of the latter as it is designed to help users learn how to perform Yoga and meditation exercises. This app boasts a modern design and uses clear images to illustrate the various exercises you should be looking to do. It sticks to a very basic colour scheme which causes the content to stand out.

In terms of functionality, the app offers an ideal introduction into the world of Yoga and meditative exercises and is absolutely fit for purpose.


Design by CalmSpark for smkhalsa

DinnerHappy is the perfect app for foodies as its goal is to help you share recipes with other food lovers around the world. Imagery is key when creating food-related apps and DinnerHappy offers absolutely superb crystal clear pictures of finished recipes which will really whet your appetite. The image quality is such that you might be tempted to reach through the screen and grab one of the delicious delicacies you see!

When it comes to functionality, DinnerHappy excels as it enables you to quickly and easily follow recipes on the app. You’ll discover that the recipes are usually written in simple step-by-step format. This makes it incredibly easy to conjure up sumptuous feasts time after time!


Design by Solomia for Contact233

Make it Fun

If you really want to balance design and functionality when creating an app, design it in a way to ensures users actually enjoy using it! Duolingo is an educational app which helps you learn a new language. If it was poorly designed, it would have quickly become a flop as learning a new language is usually seen as a difficult and even tedious process.

Fortunately, Duolingo has managed to overcome this obstacle by giving the app a cartoonish feel. You are allowed to make a certain amount of errors before a lesson ends; you lose a ‘heart’ each time you make a mistake which is clearly influenced by the Super Mario video game series and a host of other platform games.

In terms of functionality, Duolingo scores well as it breaks up your lessons into easy to digest chunks and even offers voice assistance.

Make it Sociable

Another way to achieve synergy between design and functionality is to ensure your app has a social element. A great example is the Fantasy Leagues app, which allows sports fans of all ages to create their own teams in a variety of sports including American Football and soccer.

This app is a statistician’s dream as it includes an incredible amount of data yet it is really simple to use. You can create your team, change your line-up or view stats by swiping between screens. The design manages to make it easy to see and understand the myriad of numbers on the screen and it’s possible to view bar charts and other types of graphs.

Its sociable element is enhanced by your ability to ‘Trash Talk’ your opponents. You basically write something about an opposition player and post it for everyone to see.


It doesn’t have to be complicated! Too many designers go overboard when it comes to creating an mobile app design. They try to build an all-singing, all-dancing app but end up achieving neither. Then you have designers that focus solely on function or design but the end result is an app people either don’t want to explore or else they discover it doesn’t suit their needs.

If you want to develop beautiful apps that take the world by storm, balancing design and functionality is critical. What works for one product/service will be completely ineffective for another because you have to market to a specific target audience.

Additionally, you must always incorporate your brand’s identity into the app. Make sure your customers can see the app and website unmistakably come from the same brand. You want mobile users to open the app and instantly recognise the company it came from.

Don’t forget you can learn from amazing developers on topics including Design, UX & UI at Apps World 2016 in London.

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