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How to Design a Mobile App for New Screen Sizes

It might sound like something secondary, but designing a mobile app without the right screen dimensions can make the app development process a nightmare. Additionally, the resulting mobile app might end up being terrible, thus putting users off.

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Since screen sizes are being updated with each new device, developers need to find ways to properly build mobile apps that preserve the right User Interface (UI). Not doing so may put your app and your business at risk.

Designing a mobile app for new screen sizes is something that any app development team should keep in mind. In this article, you will learn about some of the things you need to know in order to address this important issue when developing your app.

Designing a Mobile App UI

A key aspect of any great mobile app is its UI. This stands for User Interface, which, in short, is what you see on the screen. It defines the way users interact with an app. Being heavily dependent on graphic design principles, a UI is one of the many elements that help guarantee a successful User Experience (UX). Although both terms are often used interchangeably, they are very different. The UI encompasses what you see (or don’t see) on the screen, while the UX is a broader set of elements that need to be considered in order to guarantee a successful journey for users.

Having a powerful UI can be critical to an app’s success. If a user encounters a poorly designed UI, they will probably delete the app. In this sense, the UI’s mobile design dimensions matter. If an app fails to get the screen dimensions right, everything gets distorted or misplaced, consequently deteriorating the overall experience of an app. This ends up affecting the app’s usability, as well as other important elements like its accessibility. This is something that you definitely want to avoid.

Why Mobile Design Dimensions Matter

When an app is built, designers work with a series of screen sizes in mind. That way, they can create wireframes that help sketch out the basic layouts, buttons, and other visual elements of a mobile app. To build a powerful mobile app UI for different screen sizes, designers can use tools like Sketch or Figma.

Although many different devices and screen sizes exist, there are some ways to bypass each individual screen design in such a way that the look and feel is not considerably affected. Different development tools exist for this purpose. However, this isn’t always a possibility.

In some cases, dimensions change drastically, even if it doesn’t seem so to the human eye. This is mostly because of how pixels are configured in each individual screen; the pixel per inch metric is very useful to understand how each screen manages its resolution. By considering this, your app can target the right screen-text-ratio, keeping its look and feel constant throughout different screen sizes.

Due to how screens work, it becomes necessary to adapt an app to a new screen if the device requires it. This is sometimes the case with new device releases like the iPhone or the iPad. With each new device and its dimensions, developers and designers are required to redesign some elements of an app’s UI in order to preserve the overall UX. Additionally, with screen resolution improvements with each new device, development teams are also faced with the challenge of building more visually demanding products.

One thing that needs to be considered, for example, is whether a device uses a retina display. It is not the same to design an app for a normal screen as for a retina one. Similarly, it is not the same to build an app for a mobile phone as for a tablet. Lastly, app development teams also need to consider how a UI adapts to portrait and landscape views. Failing to take these considerations into account will not only affect users. It may also jeopardize the app itself as app stores might reject it on the basis of inadequate functionality and design.

Although these elements sometimes pass unnoticed by users, they are necessary to consider from the perspective of an app’s quality and integral development. As a result, designing a mobile app UI ends up being something more than just graphic design. It demands making use of the device’s screen capabilities.

Mobile Apps Design Guidelines

When it comes to a mobile app’s design guidelines, there are different routes teams can follow. However, this post isn’t about this broad and interesting topic. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that in order to design a mobile app properly, development teams need to be aligned in terms of how they will build an app.

Although technical matters often come up in these discussions, there are other things that you should probably be worrying about. Communication, for example, is a key success factor in terms of designing a mobile app for different screen sizes. Making sure team members are aligned and understand the project properly is more valuable than any specific guideline. Design and development tools that allow for collaboration are essential to guarantee a smooth development process.

A great way to ensure your app considers all the relevant elements for its UI to work properly on any screen is to use an Agile methodology. This helps teams to communicate constantly and share their work. By working together in short sprints, mistakes can easily be targeted and reprocessed rather than having to work entire modules.

iOS App Design Guidelines

Each OS has its own guidelines specifying how screen sizes should adapt depending on the device. Apple is no exception. In this adaptivity and layout guide, you will learn how to properly build an app for Apple devices considering their different device screens. Development tools like Auto Layout are very useful for this; such tools help you set rules, also known as constraints, to define the content rules of your app. That way you can design for iPhone, as well as the iPad and other Apple devices, with no inconsistencies.

Android App Design Guidelines

Designing for Android devices can be tricky because of the number of different screen sizes that exist. Luckily, there are also Android app design guidelines. Any app design team that knows how to build great apps should be familiar with them.

Mobile App Screen Resolution

I’ve already mentioned that the screen resolution changes with each new device. This is because, as screens improve, new possibilities open up for app development teams. Take a look for example at Apple’s retina display devices. If you compare these screens with the previous ones, you will probably have the sensation that the old ones are kind of like a child’s toy. This comes as no surprise.

The human eye seems to get accustomed to new technologies very fast, and so it comes as no surprise that when we downgrade, we find the previous tech aesthetically unpleasant. The same goes for how apps look on a screen. This makes it necessary to always keep your app designed for the latest screens. Otherwise, you face the risk of users perceiving your app as outdated, or even worse, as unappealing. Since screen time isn’t probably going to decrease anytime soon, it is worth investing in an app that fits the latest screen resolutions.

Responsive Design

A great solution is to build a mobile app that is responsive to different screen sizes. There are different solutions to this, some of which involve using specific programming languages to build an app, or others, which might involve using a technology that does not involve a native app. Whatever the case is for your app, make sure to understand what each technology entails.

Different alternatives may require different resources. These include the time you have set for your project, and also your budget. A native mobile app is usually more expensive than other alternatives like a web app, but the result pays off. A native mobile app’s look and feel is hardly surpassed by a web app. This does not mean that the latter isn’t a valid alternative. It all comes down in the end to what you need and can afford. Determining the cost of your app is key to understand the scope of what you can build.

PWAs

A great alternative that encompasses most of the benefits of both a native mobile app and a web app is a Progressive Web App, also known as a PWA. This technology allows an app to make use of a device’s native features while at the same time using web capabilities. Because it runs on your browser, it can bypass the app store. This does not mean, however, that you shouldn’t pay attention to your UI.

In terms of responsiveness, this is a practical solution that can be used to adapt easily to different screen sizes. By using web technologies, it can easily be adapted to a number of devices.

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