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Limitations and features

Limitations and features for mobile UX

Mobile UX

Mobile user experience (UX) design refers to the design of positive experiences which a user can feel when using mobile devices and applications or services running on such devices. Mobile usage places unique requirements on the user experience as it depends on the user context, where and when he will use the app. We will go through some basic features a mobile app has to contain.


Usability may feel like an unachievable term, but designers should simply ask themselves “can someone easily use this?”. so how can a designer know whether an app is usable or not!

Nielsen and Schneiderman explain usability as being made up of five principles:


How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?


How quickly can users perform tasks?


If a user hasn’t visited the system in a while, is it memorable for users to use it again?


How many errors do users make, and how quickly can they recover from errors?


How pleasant is it to use the design? Are they interesting about using it?

In addition to this Nielsen defines another term called Utility. Utility refers to the ability of a system to meet the needs of the user. Usability and utility are equally important and together determine whether something is useful: It matters little that something is easy if it's not what you want.

  • Definition of Utility = whether it provides the features you need.
  • Definition of Usability = how easy and pleasant these features are to use.
  • Definition of Useful = usability + utility.

Mobile UX limitations

Limitations of mobile application

The growing of mobile devices usage has presented new usability challenges that are difficult to model using traditional models of usability. The number of issues has been introduced by the advent of mobile devices:

  • Mobile Context: The word context defines where and when a user is using mobile devices. When using computers, users used to tied to one place. Whereas using mobile devices is not restricted to a single place. It also defines what users are doing while using a mobile. They may interact with people or objects. These factors lead to distracting users usage.
  • Connectivity: some mobile applications need connectivity. And it may be slow or unreliable because of the portability of mobile devices.
  • Small Screen Size: To provide portability, mobile devices may have very limited screen size and so the amount of information that can be displayed is limited.
  • Different Display Resolution: The resolution of mobile devices is less than desktop computers and that is resulting in lower quality images.

These constraints complicate the job of usability. On the other hand, there are some features that help increase usability in mobile devices and is not available on computers.

Four usability features of mobile applications:

Gestures, micro interactions, animation, and sound are significant factors that can provide great UX and delightful users.


Gestures are the new clicks. Gestures define touch mechanism, what your fingers do on the screen and that is resulting in a great feel for users.

Users encounter gestures in almost every application. It would be a swipe, tap or pinch of function. These gestures make users feel interesting.

Photo Credit: The next web 
These are some of the most common user gestures:

  • Tap: Touch surface briefly.
  • Double Tap: Touch surface with two quick contacts.
  • Drag: Move along the surface without breaking contact.
  • Pinch/spread: Touch surface with two fingers to move in (pinch) or out (spread).
  • Press: Touch surface and hold.
  • Flick: Scrolls quickly.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

The material design also shows gestures with great examples here.

One thing to keep in mind when designing for gestures is thumb placement – something that’s known as the “thumb zone.” And while it’s not always the case, most of us hold our phones with one hand and use one thumb to navigate. The most common actions happen with a thumb movement – that’s about how much space you have to work with across the device.

Micro Interactions

The magic of details what makes a great app different from a good app. It is a user action that triggers another action by the device. Using micro-interactions, you can turn something boring and lifeless into something fun and playful.

Microinteractions consist of:

Trigger: the start of micro-interaction, what action will a user take when pressing a button that will trigger feedback from the system.

Rules: the way in which the interaction behaves, it determines what happens.

Feedback: how design communicates the micro-interaction to the user. It informs people what is happening.

Loops: determine how long the micro-interaction goes on if it repeats, and how it changes over time.

Micro Interactions
Photo Credit: Medium


Motion is a cornerstone of material design. It can make an app easy to understand and funny. It can guide users through the important parts of the interface, hint what will happen before an action is performed, alleviate long waits and add a character that gives user moments of delight. All these functions lead to a great UX.

Benefits of Animation

Animation reduces cognitive load, prevents change blindness and establish a better recall in spatial relationships. But there is one more thing. Animation brings user interface to life.

Ideally, in-app animation should:

  • Provide clear feedback in response to user’s actions.
  • Provide system status to the user.
  • Guide and teach the user how to interact with the interface.

Visual Feedback

Responsive interaction encourages deeper exploration of an app by creating logical reactions to user real life, when using buttons and controls, we find a response whether by sound or feeling. This is how we expect things to work.

Buttons and Controls:

Buttons and controls should appear tangible. Visual and motion cues input immediately and animate in ways that look and feel like direct manipulation.

Buttons and Controls
Photo Credit:

System Status

Users don’t like surprises. They want to know what is happening and that everything in under control. Animation makes it easier to notify users with app’s process status.

System Status
Photo Credit:

A well-known animation for this group is “pull down to refresh,” which initiates a process of content updates on mobile devices.

System Status
Photo Credit:

Meaningful Transitions

The animation is being used to explain changes to users with meaningful transitions. Motion design can effectively guide the user’s attention in ways that both inform and delight.

Animation must be for a functional purpose. Don’t make an animation for just animation. It will lead to a poor design.

Connect Transitions Visually:

Create visual connections between transition states through color and persistent elements. Transitioning between two visual states should be clear, smooth, and effortless.

Meaningful Transitions

Delightful details

One of the most important factors about using animation is a delight. By delighting users, they will have great UX and will enjoy using your app. It can be used in all design elements from detailed icons to key transitions and actions.

Delightful details


Animations have the power to encourage users to actually interact. They can bring empathy in user experience and full of emotions.

Delightful details
Photo Credit: animation by Jason Booth

The demographics of sound

Nowadays design is far more than how pretty or ‘cool’ something looks. It’s about how we interact with the product, it’s about the usability, and it’s about how it makes us feel. Sound can have a massive impact on how user feel when using an app, so it’s vitally important to get it right.

Design drivers principles
Photo Credit: Awwwards

Sounds play a vital role in mobile UX. These can be some of the most minuscule of sounds, mere milliseconds in length, for example, a key click, background notification, or subtle swipe transition sound. Each sound should be crafted to perfection, and optimized for the medium and context for which it is intended. Think about Facebook and Twitter lading newsfeed sound. 

It’s also important not to ‘over-design’, it’s about recognizing that UI sound is a key part of the usability; it’s not there to necessarily draw attention.

Brand sound

When it comes to designing a “brand sound”. Creating that sound which has a certain amount of character and emotion, a sound that could potentially be used in marketing whilst forging a distinct recognition to your product or brand – think of the Skype start-up sound, the Samsung mobile ‘whistle’ notification tone, or even the minimal Twitter app ‘droplet’ sound. This lands us in the realm of ‘Audio Branding’, which is a huge topic in itself. What I would say is that Audio Branding has moved on from the simplistic notion of being solely about a catchy jingle – Audio Branding is about having a detailed and holistic approach to all things audio around your product or brand, everything that makes a sound.

Sound as part of the Design Process

Of course, we may all have our own opinion of what constitutes good sound, but most people will agree when they hear a bad UI sound. For example, a sound that makes you unnecessarily jump, or needlessly distracts you from an interaction. The characteristics and perceived quality of sound will always be subjective (this is often where you need to trust the expertise of a sound designer), but the most important piece about sound design is that it must have a clear purpose.

sound is a powerful tool, and when given its rightful place in the design process can inspire the overall design, strengthen your brand, and enhance usability and user experience.

When we talk about sound, the first thing comes to your mind is Notifications

Designing useful and relevant notifications for users is extremely important. Irrelevant notifications ruin the user’s experience. Notifications inform people when things happen, such as a message has arrived, new data is available for download or the status of something has changed.

Also, notifications can be powerful tools for businesses to communicate directly with users and deliver the right message at the right time and place in order to promote engagement.

What makes a notification good!

Good notifications are relevant, timely and contextual. Always respect the user’s time and attention.

Relevant and Valuable

There is nothing more annoying than a sudden irrelevant notification is viewing on your mobile. Some notifications are not worth pulling user’s attention at a certain moment like social network updates, or status updates where the user doesn’t need to take an action or a routine action like saving a document.

Brand sound
Photo Credit: UX Planet

In contrast, a personalized relevant notification is always helpful. Users appreciate it.  Notifications should provide a valuable service to the users, and only in that case the user will perceive them as something deserving their attention.

Netflix does a great job of personalizing their notifications. They use push notifications to let users know when their favorite shows are available.

Photo Credit: UX Planet


Only notify the users when having an important thing to say at an appropriate time. The time the notification is performed is as important as the content of the notification. The timing has to be right for the user to perform the action to manage the event that caused the notification.

Photo Credit: UX Planet


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