Archive | Design

Elegance attracts and app design

Successful apps have a number of common characteristics. Apart from the obvious, such as relevant functional scope and context-relevance, I believe that elegance is the most fundamental. Never before have non-designers been so engaged in concept and design discussions as today. Elegance attracts.

I’m collecting great app UI on a Pinterest-board and am keeping my favorite design resources updated. Just browsing through some of those inspirational collections is uplifting and some of them are just like a handful of sweets.


From UI Parade

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Objects Of Desire

We are spoiled, ‘consumerized’ users of technology nowadays. We expect compelling, aesthetic user experiences as a default and we want to use our own, favourite devices. If that expectation is not met, we disconnect; in our role as consumers, but just as much as enterprise workers. Create desirable apps that facilitate specific tasks and contexts and hide what’s underneath. Apply Design Thinking, Gamification and Responsive Design so that the apps morph into the overall experience of clients and enterprise users. Turn your mobile app store into a candy store and enable any device.

On top of most corporate digital agendas today is digital convergence. Engaging and inspiring user experiences across all channels give products and services unprecedented reach.

Most of us have adopted smartphones, some nearly literally, and rely on a multitude of apps for both business and pleasure. For all practical purposes, the smartphone has become a remote control of life enabling us to manage everything from relationships to financial transactions. The combination of superbly designed phones and visually stunning apps reaches to the level of being a fashion statement, a statement of character and identity.

They have become objects of desire.

User experience and user interface design can be summed up into one word: beauty. Unless the apps or response sites are gorgeously designed, risks are that users will find alternatives. Functionality alone is simply not enough anymore. This means that IT now has to deal with engagement requirements being business critical.

Beside design aspects, the reason why mobile is at the core of digital development is because its catalyst characteristics from the fact that it teaches us the true value of ubiquitous access to information and it enchants us with new and unexpected context driven value. (A great example of an app that enchants the user with context driven value using location, the phone’s camera and open data is FlightRadar24).

In many sectors, mobile has become the new normal (most usage are driven from mobile devices), for example in the banking and travel sectors. The design trend in these sectors is clear: new generation solutions are designed for mobile first and with a strong design ambition.

Engagement can also be accelerated using different types of relevant gamification. For example, use top lists of opted-in users based on activity, create levels of achievements, and award the highest achieving with perks and offers (FourSquare is an example of a gamification-driven community for location check-in, you may also want to check out Badgeville for their multi-channel ‘behavior platform’ that aims to engage both customers and employees).

Most successful innovative and stunningly designed solutions were the result of agile design driven development. We have found the following best practices critical:

  • Define and maintain scope and requirements using sketches and mockups
  • Use personas and scenario maps to identify relevant contextual value
  • Design style sheets and mood boards used across all digital channels
  • Collect feedback from users in target groups using prototypes

To ensure that your solutions become natural members among these objects of desire, we recommend embracing four cornerstones: inspire the user, enchant with context driven value, enable personalization and include some level of innovation.

Regardless of what solution you take on next, if it’s a mobile app, a responsive web site, a Google Glass app, or a Leap Motion controlled innovation, following these best practices maximizes the chances of being taken to your user’s heart, as an object of desire.

Continue Reading · 0 · Categories: Design, Mobile, Sogeti

Skeuomorphism is not dead

In the aftermath of Apple replacing Scott Forstall with Jony Ive as head of iOS (and more), I am seeing articles, posts and tweets about the death of skeuomorphism. The reason is reported to relate to the fact that Scott is in favor of using skeuomorphism in apps and Jony is not. Whether or not that is true (it’s hard to tell even after studying lengthy articles on the subject), the notion that skeuomorphism now is dead is ridiculous simply because it works and always has.

A Wikipedia article defines skeuomorphism as a “design element of a product that imitates design elements functionally necessary in the original product design, but which have become ornamental in the new design.”

In other words, when you design for example an app for recording audio it makes sense to design it as a microphone even though it would work just as well designed as a shovel or with no actual reference to the physical world at all.

Skeuomorphism is old. It’s thousands of years old in the physical world, and it has always been a natural part of computer graphics and design. Not only is skeuomorphism often beautiful, it helps the user understand how to use and interact with its features.

The opponents of skeuomorphism on the iPhone platform often use the “Find friends” app as their most hated object. The screenshot below shows that the design mimics leather, and in this instance I agree with the opponents. Other than the fact that it looks nice (if you like leather), the design makes no real sense. Why leather and not just a standard iPhone look?

Leather in Apple’s Find Friends-app

However, I never heard complaints about Apple’s Voice Memos-app. See below. It’s a beautifully designed microphone. If you hate skeuomorphism, I am assuming this app should be redesigned too.

Skeuomorphism in Voice Memos

And what about iPhone’s Notes-app. If you look carefully at the top of the page. It looks as if papers have been torn out from the notepad. There are no functional aspects to that torn look, but it certainly makes the app stand out as carefully designed.

Skeuomorphism in the Notes-app


However, my key point in that skeuomorphism will live despite what Jony Ive thinks or not is that the design approach is adopted by thousands of designers and developers outside of Apple. Look at the following apps and then you cast your vote. Is skeuomorphism always wrong?




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Crayons and online services

Are we seeing a new online design trend emerge? I just spotted the similarities between the design of some pages from Dropbox and Vimeo. Instead of just the clean and techy design, it seems they have picked the crayons for some hand-drawn awesomeness. I like.

Have you seen any other online services that have picked up the more artsy tone?

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Making apps like strawberry cakes

I just made a strawberry cake for my daughter’s birthday. While making it, I figured that it’s really like making a great app.

First you need to know some basic requirements. Starting off with a recipe you believe in helps.
Then you need to balance out your priorities. What is most important priority in your project?
Well, in a strawberry cake it’s easy. The most important ingredient is strawberries.
So, I maximized on strawberries. I didn’t go with the one liter requirement. I went with three liters.

Focus on your app’s key priorities!

Once you are done with priorities, you need to think in layers.
Every layer counts. It doesn’t matter if the cake only looks nice but just one layer beneath it is crap.
In fact, the user interface (first layer) might be pretty but if any layer beneath it fails the entire user experience fails.
An app depends on stability and performance through all layers including the UI, local component layer, local data storage layer, and even through the integration with backend components.

So, the layering starts. Prepare by slicing a lot of strawberries.
What ever the user likes the most, spend the most amount of time on that.

Think. Prepare. Do.

For the first layer, you’ll need vanilla cream and sliced strawberries.
Vanilla cream gives a great base taste. It sort of scopes the cake.
App scope is critical. Make sure you don’t go too wide, a great app does often just a few things, but does them very well.

First layer: Vanilla cream and then strawberries

For the second layer, you’ll focus in on what matters. As I’ve already said, it’s strawberries.
Strawberry mousse made of cream, gelatin, and strawberries. And on top of that lots of strawberries.
The mousse gives great texture. Great apps also have great textures such as responsiveness, predictability yet open for the user’s imagination. Lots of strawberries here. Learn exactly what the highest priorities of your user or give as much awesome smartness as you possibly can come up with. But package whatever you do, in an easy to use format.

Second layer: Strawberry mousse and strawberries

For the third layer, you are preparing for that final UI touch. Prepare well.
To make the last strawberries really pop, put some melted white chocolate, cream cheese and cream on top.
And on the side, some whipped cream to make sure the strawberries stick.
Make sure the context around your app optimizes its value. Streamline your processes, align your app look and feel with your overall brand.
And in a narrower perspective, your app’s visual background: make sure it’s calm and quiet so you can direct the user’s attention to what’s important.

Third layer: White chocolate and whipped cream on the side

Finally, you greet the user with fireworks. Go all out on strawberries. See biggest one? Right in the middle. Whatever that matters the most with your app, make it visible already on the first screen of the app. Make it impossible to miss. And right in the middle, put the best idea you came up with!


So there you have it. Optimize whatever characteristic is the most important for the user.
And be sure to focus not only on the top layer, the user interface. The entire user experience has to be consistently excellent.
Layer by layer.
Just like a strawberry cake.

Continue Reading · 3 · Categories: Apps, Design