6 Mobile App Design Tips for Certification Courses

6 Mobile App Design Tips for Certification Courses

August 2, 2018 Mobile Learning 0
User interacting with a mobile app design.

Are you bringing your certification course to mobile? Here’s how to make sure it’s usable.

Mobile apps are a growing component of e-learning. With more of the U.S. population on cell phones each year, anything that is not on mobile will quickly fall behind and grow irrelevant. However, despite its prevalence, many mobile apps still suffer from usability errors that are the result of poor design choices.

When it comes to online certification, nothing is more damaging than a poor user experience. A learner who signs up for certification and then leaves because of an ill-designed app is not likely to ever come back, and is even less likely to recommend that program to others.

So, if you’re planning to introduce your course to mobile soon, here are some top mobile app design tips to help ensure you avoid the worst of usability errors.

1. Content layout.

The first principle of good mobile app design comes down to the content layout. Obviously, your content needs to fit on the screen—images that are too wide and require the user to scroll from side to side are no good. But the more common mistake is that of trying to include too many elements in one space.

Mobile screens are small. Put too much into that tiny space, and users will struggle to differentiate content. Keep in mind, most users don’t hold their phones close to their face when they interact with their apps. You want elements that are easy to distinguish, even when your user is holding the phone away from them and at waist height.

2. Size.

While it’s never good to crowd a user’s experience, on a small screen, tight content is even more overwhelming to the user than on a desktop. Give your design some white space, and choose at least an 11pt font.

Tightly-packed content also makes it more difficult for users to interact with the app. Because the primary means of selecting actions is through tapping the screen, when content is too close together it increases the risk of a user tapping the wrong thing by mistake. The general recommendation is to have buttons at least 44pt x 44pt to avoid confusion, although even larger could be better.

3. Contrast.

Just as too many elements can crowd a small screen, poor contrast can make text hard to read and buttons hard to notice. Make sure fonts are weighted appropriately for their context, and that text is easily legible no matter what background appears behind it in the app.

Good contrast can also establish hierarchy, which helps guide a user’s actions. For instance, pairing a solid button with a ghost button helps to emphasize primary and secondary actions. Ghost buttons tend to fade into the background and be overlooked by users, but that can be helpful if the action is undesirable.

4. Predictability.

Consistency is an important learning tool for your learners. When it comes to user interface, buttons and other interactive elements should appear and behave the way users expect. This reduces user friction with your design, and makes it easier for learners to remember how the app works.

Internal design features should be the same throughout your app design, but you can also benefit from using standard symbols that your users are already familiar with, such as a letter icon for messages, or a house to help them easily return to the home screen.

This principle also applies to how you label buttons. Learners will hesitate to click a button if they’re not sure what it does. Use the wording on the buttons to clearly state what those buttons do, and your users will feel more confident in their navigation.

5. Backup.

Image of a phone with an angry face icon.

That said, users will inevitably do something they didn’t mean to do. When this happens, they must be able to quickly and easily return to where they were before. Without these features in place, your users will learn to avoid taking any actions which may result in negative outcomes, which will inhibit their ability to freely explore your app.

On Android devices, allowing users to back up is as simple as enabling the native back button of the OS. If you’re creating your app for iOS, designers recommend putting the button in the upper left-hand corner, where it is most expected.

6. Actions and reactions.

Every action your users take should have an appropriate reaction. If your users click on a button, it should give some signal to show it has been clicked, then it should do the thing it said it would do. This feedback is often subtle, but it is crucial for the users to know that the app is responding to their actions.

Another subtle example of this at play is the way news feeds on social media apps use a short scrolling wheel animate to indicate whether there’s new content for you to see. Similarly, when you’re scrolling up or down an app, many will indicate you’ve reached the top or bottom by using a slight pull function that snaps back in place when you lift your finger.

Your users have a lot to learn from mobile.

Mobile learning opens your users to a wider, more flexible means of achieving certification. It’s portable, accessible, and easy to engage with during down time at work, or while waiting in line on tedious errands.

By creating an engaging and usable mobile interface, you connect your learners to new opportunities to improve their careers and achieve their objectives. It may take extra time and some due diligence on your part, but we think that’s a goal worth striving for.

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Author Bio

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of SimplyCertify. Justin has spent the last decade consulting individuals and Fortune 500 companies on how to get the most out of their continuing education programs.  Twitter | LinkedIn