The App Creation Journey: The Design Side

What does it take to make an excellent app? Developers and designers have different roles, but both are equally important for in app production. Planning an app can be simple, but actualizing your product is tough.

Your final product needs to be solely focused on the core functionality required to meet the most important customer needs. Eschew bells and whistles in the interest of speed to market and accelerated learning.

With this understanding, careful planning with your design and development teams are in order. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the path ahead of your design team.

User Experience Design Methodology

Great user experiences are centered on user needs, so it’s critical that your design, engineering, and marketing teams make them the focal point of your design strategy. You might be surprised at the amount of thought that goes into the simplest and most delightful app experiences, and it’s certainly no accident. From a design planning perspective, you’ll need to account for a lot of moving parts, with each milestone providing a solid foundation for the next. You’ll want to ensure that your plans for initial release allow time and resources for each of the major user experience design practices, illustrated below as a pyramid.

Information Architecture (IA)

The bottom layer in our UX design pyramid is Information Architecture (IA). IA is the practice of structuring content, information, and functionality in a way that makes it all easy to understand and use. It’s all about providing clarity around how the entire experience should be organized and accessed. An easy way to visualize one outcome of IA is to think about how your favorite app labels and presents navigation, or how you find a particular feature or piece of content.

Typical IA deliverables include:

• Mental Models

• Site Maps

• Task Analysis and Key User Flows

• Content Inventories and Taxonomies

Interaction Design & Prototyping

This is where your product really comes to life. Interaction Design is the process of determining exactly how your app and your customer will interact with each other. It’s all about defining how the app feels, flows, leads the eye, and moves people through its features and functionality. The interaction design process establishes interface principles and design patterns to enable your functionality, making it easy for customers to use and realize the value of your app. The output of interaction design hones your focus, produces workable prototypes, and enables additional design research and user feedback as needed.

Typical interaction design deliverables include:

• User Flow Diagrams

• Wireframes

• Motion Comps

• Interactive Prototypes

Visual Design & Copywriting

Visual Design builds on interaction design, and focuses on the aesthetics of your app. This practice encompasses color, typography, graphical elements, visual hierarchy, and layout. It’s the “look” aspect of “look and feel”. Good visual design enables and improves upon interaction design, provides clarity and assurance to users, affords branding opportunities, and -- when properly coupled interaction design -- elevates a great solution to a delightful experience.

Typical visual design deliverables include:

• Design Mockups/Comps

• Hi-Fidelity Prototypes

• Copy Deck

• Style Guides

While there aren’t any viable shortcuts to releasing a great digital product, a sound design strategy and well-planned execution can go a long way towards mitigating risk and minimizing expense.

In our next post, we’ll examine what the development stage should look like for your technology team.

Are you interested in learning more about Tonic’s approach to design strategy and execution? Drop us a line at