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17 Design Elements Your Mobile App Needs

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

The key to a successful app is designing something people want to keep using.

It's easier than ever for businesses to create a branded mobile application. However, creating an app that no one uses just for the sake of having one is a waste of your business's time and resources. If you're going to invest in an app, you'll want to make sure you're properly designing it to encourage repeat use.

To help you do this, we asked the members of the Young Entrepreneur Council to share some essential steps and elements that should go into designing a business app. The YEC is an invite-only organization of young entrepreneurs who represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. 

Here's what they said. Here are some approaches you can tap into in order to build an engaging, user-friendly branded experience that your customers will love.

1. Gamification

You can increase customer app engagement and retention by implementing a gamification strategy within your app. For instance, you could award badges to consumers based on their purchase history, forum comments and more. Consumers crave personalized experiences where they are having fun, even if they are on a website or application with the intent to pull out their credit card. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

2. A straightforward UX

Any app, whether it be desktop or mobile, needs to be incredibly intuitive and user-friendly. In this age of distraction, if an app isn't straight-forward, then it’s going to have extremely poor adoption, let alone retention. - Matt Diggity, Diggity Marketing

3. Loyalty rewards

Loyalty programs are still used by some of the biggest companies in the world. Many small- to medium-sized businesses have implemented their own loyalty program where users get cashback or rewards for using the app when they make purchases. Rewarding customers for their loyalty will result in repeated uses per download. - John Turner, SeedProd LLC

4. A sense of community

You need to give users a reason to come back to your app, and the best way to do that is to help them find their people within your app. Give them a way to easily communicate with these people and create a feedback loop, like a "heart" button, to ensure people come back. This is what all the major social media platforms do to ensure their apps are used. - Monica Snyder, Birdsong

5. Push notifications

No matter how cool or useful your app is, people are becoming more conscious about spending too much time on their phones. The majority of apps do not utilize the power of notifications to keep people coming back to them. MyFitnessPal is great at this by letting you know about "streaks" you're currently on or even reminding you that you haven't tracked your nutrition for seven days. - Karl Kangur, Above House

6. Filling a demand

Understanding the basics of supply and demand can't be underestimated. This is a concept that needs to be built into the product. Are you offering an in-app tool? Content? Service? How renewable is it? Can you build on and expand the tool, service or content to maintain engagement? Is it something that is providing the quickest solution to the problem? - Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

7. Easy navigation

An app's design should be intuitive and users should be able to find exactly what they want in a few steps. Create menus that lead to the most frequent or important actions that users take. Make it easy for users to learn how to use the app, give feedback and reach customer support. You'll ensure that customers don't quit your app in frustration by making the navigation simple. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

8. A good onboarding process

If users don't know how to use your app or what benefits it will give them, they won't continue to use it. So, make sure you use onboarding best practices. This includes showcasing the benefits of using your app upfront, mentioning the core features and offering helpful instructions at the point of user action, instead of overwhelming them with information all at once. - Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

9. A unique feature

If you really want to grab and keep users' attention, then you need to make your app stand out in ways that others don't. What feature does your app have that makes it better than the alternatives? For example, Bumble changed the online dating game by being one of the only apps out there that let women reach out to their matches first. The difference made them a popular choice for singles. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

10. A/B/n testing

However innovative your idea and however smart your designers, there is no substitute for user testing. Get your app out to beta testers as early as possible and pay attention to their feedback. Once you have a significant user base, invest in A/B/n testing. Testing helps to refine design ideas. Without it, you will struggle to build a UX that has real-world appeal to users. - Chris Madden, Matchnode

11. Streamlined content

Less is more. Don't overload your app with unnecessary content. Streamline it and make it as user-friendly as possible. If I visit a site and it is hard to navigate, that is the end of my visiting that site. - Colbey Pfund, HUGS Wellness

12. A feedback mechanism

If your users are going to be using the system, they should be the ones giving feedback. The biggest mistakes I see designers do is think of themselves as the user and imagine what they would want in your app. There are so many nuances that you know like the back of your hand that your users don't. Intuitiveness for you versus your users are two very different things. - Saumya Bhatnagar, InvolveSoft

13. Intuitive finger movement patterns

The app needs to be intuitive with your finger movement patterns. The app needs to be easy to use, visually pleasant and fast. Secondly, the customer needs to be incentivized to come back. They need a reason and you need to provide it to them. What would be the reason they should come back? Why would they come back? - Anthony Davani, The Davani Group Inc.

14. Data gathering functions

There is a lot of valid advice out there on UX and designing for usability. But what is equally important is gathering minuscule data about every screen – the load times, what users click, errors and crash data, as these also tell a story about what users did with an app. This needs to be done from day one and not as an afterthought. - Subbu Viswanathan, Disprz

15. Incentivized prototype testing

Don't ever assume that the way you use your app is the same way that your customers will use it. It's always beneficial to run some user testing before you invest in building out a specific design. Reach out to some customers, offer them a gift card, and have them test out some prototypes of your app so that you can better understand how they use the app. It will pay off in the long run. - Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff

16. Short- and long-term value

It isn't easy to do, but the best chance at making a successful and popular app is to provide short-term and long-term value. Short-term value can be provided with daily rewards, updates or activities. Long-term value can be added through frequent login bonuses and exclusive offers for users who return after a long absence. - Bryce Welker, Accounting Institute of Success

17. A timeless idea

If your app is something that people can use well over time, then it stands a far better chance of out-surviving its competitors. Gaming apps rise and fall in popularity and use because, over time, it's the same thing over and over. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram can be used any time and still create curiosity and interest in users. - Jared Atchison, WPForms

Image Credit: denkcreative/Getty Images
Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber Member
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.