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Tips for Designing Beautiful eCommerce Mobile Apps

Before you dive into building a mobile app, there are certain key guidelines and rules that have been dictated by mobile app users that you really need to know and understand.

Did you know that it has been estimated that by the end of this year, mobile e-shopping will account for $163 billion(!) in worldwide sales? Or that 85% of smartphone users would rather use a mobile app instead of a mobile website? And the most startling stat of all is that even though 33% of mobile sales are made via an app, only 10% of retailers actually offer one!

Taking those stats into consideration, any eCommerce business that is serious about increasing sales and reach, regardless of size, should seriously consider having a mobile app.

Creating a great customer experience for your buyers is critical to your success. So before you dive into building a mobile app, there are certain key guidelines and rules that have been dictated by mobile app users that you really need to know and understand. I’ve outlined those ten key areas below.

Simple & Uncluttered User Interface

When designing the user interface (UI) of an eCommerce mobile app, there are two important factors you should always keep at the forefront of your mind:

The first is that the screen size of a mobile device is much smaller than a full-size desktop or laptop, so you’re limited to how much content you can display on one screen. And the second is that you should design your app so that it’s as easy as possible for your customers to use and, most importantly, buy something.

The prominent Add to Cart button from Highball
The clean & uncluttered Target & Etsy mobile app storefronts.

On the home screen of your app, you should focus on having a simple, uncluttered layout that highlights your latest promotions or most popular items alongside a carefully thought-out and easy to find global navigation system and search functionality.

Condensed & Consistent Navigation

Unlike eCommerce websites, where you will commonly see large mega-menus that lists all categories, sections, and promotions, with the smaller screen size of a mobile app, you are limited to how many items you can effectively display within the global navigation.

The simplified navigation system from M. Gemi Italian Shoes
The simplified navigation system from M. Gemi Italian Shoes.

To simplify the discovery process for users, you should ensure that your menu is positioned consistently and clearly throughout the app and that your menu list only contains the most important categories/sections.

Each menu item should also be written and easily understood by using just a single word.

Avoid a Long Signup & Checkout Process

Just as I mentioned in my previous eCommerce article, users don’t like a long multi-page signup or checkout process, and that goes double for mobile app users. They just have no patience.

The simplified guest checkout process from Barneys New York.
The simplified guest checkout process from Barneys New York (iPhone).

Make the process easier by allowing new customers to register using their favored social network and to purchase as a guest.

You should also offer to store user information for any future purchases that would save them from having to repeat the process. As a bonus, use auto-complete for those unavoidable repetitive tasks.

Always Display a Prominent ‘Add to Cart’ Button

One of the key things you need to do when a user finds a product they want to buy is make sure that they can complete the purchase as quickly as possible. If they have to take too many steps, you will more than likely lose the sale.

The prominent Add to Cart button from Highball
The prominent ‘Add to Cart’ button from Highball.

On product screens, having an always in view and prominent ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ button will help to make the purchasing experience simpler for the customer and will certainly help to improve your sales.

Minimize the Number of Images

The expectations of mobile app users, especially shoppers, is that mobile app screens load instantly. If they don’t, customers will shop elsewhere. It’s as simple as that. We all know that that is just not possible as not everybody has access to super-fast broadband.

A simple method to ensure that your app loads as quickly as possible is to limit the number of weighty high-resolution images you use per screen. One will be enough.

Alleviate Impatience with a Progress Bar

As mentioned above, users do not like multi-page signup forms, but if your signup or checkout process does end up being longer than recommended, you should use a progress bar to let your customers know exactly how many more screens they have to endure before the process is finally complete.

Image Source.

Allow Users to Favorite Products

Just like in brick and mortar stores, customers like to browse before eventually buying something. On your mobile app you can make the browsing process enjoyable by letting users add products to a ‘wishlist’ or ‘favorites’ section and then allow them to revisit their collected lists to give them that extra time they need to decide which item to buy.

The prominent Add to Cart button from Highball
Both Barneys NY & Canopy allow users to favorite items.

Consider the Thumb-Friendly-Zone

With studies suggesting that 70–90% of the world population is right-handed, you should place the key areas and functions (like the ‘add to cart’ button) of your app within easy reach of the right-hand ‘thumb-friendly-zone.’

The Thumb-Friendly-Zone
The Thumb-Friendly-Zone Image Source.

Something you should always keep in mind when designing your app is that as smartphones gradually get bigger, the ‘thumb-friendly-zone’ will greatly decrease.

Ensure User Data is Secure

The most important thing that you can do for your users is make sure that their personal and financial data is safe, even if it’s at the risk of blowing your development budget or delaying launch.

Spend that little extra time and money building an app that is as secure as possible, your reputation and business really does depend on it. It doesn’t matter if you sell the best products or have the fastest and most intuitive app, if a customer loses faith in your app, they will never return.


Paul Andrew

About the Author Paul Andrew

Paul is the founder of Speckyboy Design Magazine and writes web stuff for Envato. You can follow him on Twitter.