The mobile app market is constantly growing and changing — here’s what you need to know about app design trends in 2016.
Every market goes through different phases — but technology trends seem to fluctuate at an especially rapid pace. As they’re not directly plugged into the conversation, DIY app builders need to stay ahead of the curve to create something that’s fresh and new but still fits the zeitgeist. So which themes will app designers expand on in 2016?
Life in Color
Today, we’re spending more time glued to our smartphones than ever before — in fact, mobile web browsing has comfortably surpassed internet usage on desktops and laptops. Perhaps as a response to this shift in user preference, color palettes have been growing softer and more muted, giving users’ eyes a rest. Pantone’s dual pick for Color Of The Year — “Rose Quartz” and “Serenity” — illustrate both this trend towards softer color tones, as well as the rise of subtle gradients and blended hues. App theme backgrounds have been defocusing, utilizing diffuse patterns and schemes in order to let the foreground content really shine.
With Apple’s lauded retina screen gaining traction, image format and resolution should be a primary consideration for app builders in 2016. Grainy, low-res images will no longer be tolerated, suggesting that scalable vector graphics (SVGs) will become the new norm, ultimately replacing .pngs and .jpgs. Moreover, moving images are quickly replacing static graphics: as human vision is highly attuned to motion perception, it’s a smart way of grabbing attention and making your app stand out from the crowd. Looping .gifs have been popping up all over as an integral part of the app’s design, as well as its hosted content.
While resolution is improving across the board, legibility is always a concern and major technical hurdle on relatively small smartphone screens — as developer John Newman of Axial points out, readability always trumps branding. Designers are moving towards using bold, non-serif fonts to deliver their messages, with clever use of whitespace to make sure the words pop right off the screen.
Simply put, the apps that are the most fun and intuitive are the apps that actually get used. No matter the purpose of their program, savvy app designers will be thinking about how to gamify the the experience with microinteractions, or “clunks” as Econsultancy calls them. Just as improved displays have forced app designers to step their graphic design game up, 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s adds an extra dimension to interfacing — the opportunities for game designers in particular are immense. That said, this idea is still a relatively new one, and whether or not users will embrace it still remains to be seen.
Keep it Simple
Everybody hates filling in lots of forms — especially on their mobile devices. As a result, registration processes are becoming more and more streamlined, with a trend towards all-in-one name fields, as opposed to separating first names and surnames. Even better, allowing users to log in with their preferred social media platform not only spares them excess typing (and the associated finger cramping), but also integrates the app with the platforms that already play a huge part of their daily lives.
When it comes to navigation, it’s time for a shake up. While it might be tempting to condense content into the familiar “hamburger menu,” Awwwards explains these three lines are experiencing an increasing backlash. Why? Aside from being a somewhat played-out, visual cliché, they often hide vital information which should be up front and center. Displaying top level categories prominently, on their own terms, provides your users with much smoother and enjoyable experience.
Apps for All
Perhaps the biggest trend is the democratization of app creation. While the DIY app market has always been a bit more “wild west” than the fully-funded, corporate development landscape, more and more amateurs are getting into the game.
Enabled by DIY sites such as AppMakr, ordinary people can now create their own apps without prior coding knowledge and/or experience. As a result, we will see scores of non-professional developers realizing the endless possibilities that the app platform represents. The infusion of fresh blood and outsider ideas are sure to make 2016 the most exciting year for app development yet — and we can’t wait to see what comes next!
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