5 Essential Design Principles Developers Should Learn

Developers should also learn how to make apps visually pleasing. In this article, you’ll know the key elements that make apps look and feel good.

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Written by

J.C. Yee

Published on

17 Aug 2023

In the ever-evolving world of app development, there are some fundamental principles that every developer should learn to ensure that their work is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

In this article, we provide you with a solid understanding of these foundational principles. Embracing these design tenets can transform your development process, enhancing the look, feel, and usability of your projects. Whether you’re just starting your journey as a developer or seeking to refine your design skills, these crucial principles will serve as your guiding compass

Typography and Layout

In design, typography is all about the style, arrangement, and appearance of text, which can heavily influence how users interact with or interpret the information presented. Usually, good typography entails having legible text, but more than that, it’s also about setting the right tone, as typefaces have characteristics that help exude a personality for your app.

Layout, on the other hand, is the arrangement of visual elements on a screen. It plays a critical role in ensuring that your users will find and understand the information they need easily. A well-planned layout finds the perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality, and to achieve that, your app should have clear organization, consistent patterns, and a logical flow of information across your screens.

Anyone who’s building an app should always consider good typography and layout in order to ensure a good visual experience for your users. These two are critical elements that help form first impressions for your app, and failing to deliver on them can make or break people’s perceptions.

Granted, if you plan to build an MVP or are still in the early stages of app development, typography and layout are elements that can always be improved. In fact, you can just use the native or system font of iOS or Apple, and you’ll be good to go. Just make sure that the text on your app and the information you show will always be easily read and absorbed by anyone, regardless of where you are in your product’s life cycle.

Color Theory

Color plays a vital role in user perception, as several colors have already created a level of association with the emotions we feel. For instance, the color red incites strong emotions, which is why we use it in destructive actions like canceling or deleting an account.

On the other hand, blue or green represent calmness and stability, which is why they’re often used in call-to-action buttons. Understanding the psychological effects of colors can be leveraged when designing your app. However, it’s not only the color itself that matters; how it’s used in combination with other colors and elements is also crucial. You definitely wouldn’t use blue buttons against a purple background.

When done correctly, color can become a powerful tool for aiding in the readability of your app, emphasizing important controls, and fostering good emotions with users. The strategic use of color can create a more immersive experience that not only keeps users engaged but also drives them to take action.

With all that said, you don’t need to be an expert in color theory to build harmony and balance in your app’s design. Sometimes, a combination of gut feeling and learning how popular apps use it is enough, especially if you’re just building a small app that still has a lot of room for growth. Still, understanding them is important if you’re in it for the long haul.

User Flow

User flow refers to the series of steps or screens taken by a user on an app to complete a task, such as purchasing a product, signing up for an account, or obtaining information. It plays a pivotal role in understanding and improving the user experience.

Have you ever been frustrated by an app that makes you go through several screens and actions just to do what you really want to do? If so, chances are the developer of that app didn’t really optimize the user flow from the start.

As a developer, creating effective user flows will help you see the site from the user’s perspective, which could lead to well-designed experiences. The easier the journey, the more likely it is that a user will finish the task. More often than not, the key lies in understanding user behavior and anticipating their needs.
When you invest time and effort in understanding and improving user flow, you have better chances of having higher user engagement and increased retention rates, which directly impact the success of your app.

Visual Consistency

Maintaining visual consistency in an app is linked directly to user retention and engagement rates because it helps instill a sense of familiarity and reliability. Users are likely to spend more time exploring features when they find the interface delightful and consistent from start to finish.

Consistent visual elements such as color schemes, typography, icons, and image styles contribute to the overall user experience in terms of navigation and understanding. You definitely wouldn’t want an app to use a specific typeface on one screen and a different typeface on another. An inconsistent design can lead to frustration and confusion, ultimately causing the user to have a negative perception of the app.

From a developer’s perspective, maintaining visual consistency leads to cleaner, leaner, and easier-to-maintain code. When similar elements follow the same design rules and visual characteristics, you reduce the need for redundant code. In other words, not only does visual consistency benefit the users, but it also streamlines and simplifies the development process, ultimately saving you time and effort in the long run.

For iOS Developers, learning about Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines is a great way to achieve visual consistency.

Accessibility

Designing with accessibility in mind means considering all potential users, including those with physical disabilities such as sight or hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, or age-related impairments.
Developing accessible products allows us to create an inclusive atmosphere where everyone, irrespective of their condition or situation, can interact with our app properly. Imagine a color-blind person trying to navigate your app; if designed without consideration for them, it can be a hugely frustrating task.

For independent and early-stage developers, you should know that accessibility isn’t just about inclusivity; it also greatly enhances usability and the user experience. An app designed with accessibility in mind provides better interactive and navigation functionality, making it easier to understand and use.

For example, large, clear fonts can be read by users with visual impairments; good color contrast can help those with poor eyesight; and utilizing subtitles or providing text alternatives to audio content can aid those with hearing impairments.

Users who do not have these conditions may also find these features beneficial. Larger fonts and contrasting colors are easier on the eyes, making navigating the app less of a strain. Subtitles can help in noisy environments or in situations where audio cannot be used. This goes to show that designing with accessibility in mind can elevate the overall user experience.

Watch: Beginners Guide to Designing Accessible UI

At the end of the day, these design principles that we’ve discussed, albeit essential, can be pursued at any stage of app development. As a developer who’s just starting out, there are a lot more important factors that you should focus on, such as formulating an app idea, implementing innovative features, and publicizing it. So don’t stress about them too much, but certainly don’t forget about them in your app development journey.

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