Nowadays, coming up with an outstanding first impression is an expectation that cannot be
downplayed. The benefits of good UI design are almost innumerable. So important is UI design to the success of a website that we might argue it is the single most important element of any web project. Forget your typography choices, your image options, or your colourways. UI design is where it’s at.
The two major parts of UI design are Web UI design and Mobile UI design. Both Web and Mobile UI are key aspects to their respective successes. The best UI design is sleek, intuitive – and invisible. As a rule, you want your user interface to be as non-intrusive as possible: the less aware a user is of the interface, the better it is. Your focus should be on ensuring rapid access to core content – in other words to facilitating your users’ access to the information they most need.
Indeed, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Coming up with an outstanding first impression is primordial to attract your customers. For entrepreneurs and designers alike, survival now depends on understanding the differences between desktop vs. mobile app design and how to make the best of both.
Firstly, Screen Size. A desktop has a larger screen size. This means a lot more than the opportunity to add more stuff. Screen size affects all aspects of design, especially navigation. Desktop apps can support fixed navigation bars, while mobiles are generally limited to pull-out menus. This is quite effective for discoverability, since users may find new sections they didn’t previously know about. Mobile apps must conserve screen space everywhere they can, so you must be aware of which elements are important enough to show.
Next, Interaction. Desktop apps can make full use of cursor interactivity: things like hover text or cursor-triggered animations. This allows desktop apps to feature entire screens full of pictures, with descriptive text only appearing on hover. You can’t hover or rollover on mobile apps, but you have an infinite slate of gestures literally at your fingertips. Swiping, shaking, or good ol’ fashioned poking brings a whole new set of opportunities to apps.
Organizing Content. Any content on desktop can appear in a traditional multi-column format - just like print content in newspapers and magazines. This offers a lot of flexibility for designing layouts and positioning text, images, and UI elements. However, in mobiles, once content reaches a certain length, mobile apps need to use long scrolling. Mobile users actually prefer continuous scrolling, and this technique conserves screen space while making interaction more fun with gestures. Mobile apps can switch between portrait and landscape views at will. For designers and website owners, this is a blessing and a curse. Two screen orientations allow for more functionality and better user personalization.
Lastly, Functionality. Users prefer desktop apps for longer, more involved tasks. One reason: mobile screens limit the number of functions available at once. But more to the point, it’s about the mentality. Mobile works for short spurts and quick tasks that come up at the moment. What mobile lacks in functionality, it makes up for with ingenuity.
A few design tips, to finish up! If you’re creating an app that’s for both desktop and mobile, start with the mobile version first. It’s easier to add elements as you increase the screen size than it is to remove elements as you shrink the screen size. Going desktop-first tends to involve more backtracking. One of the greatest discrepancies between mobile and desktop is the user’s state of mind. Tasks on mobile apps should be fast and instantly comprehensible at a glance. Imagine someone trying to use your app while running late to catch a flight. It must support quick sporadic glances and be usable amid distractions. Keep complex tasks in desktop land. And that’s the key!