Creating a web application design that truly meets real user needs is tricky. You have to make sure that it’s interactive and works smoothly on all devices. Plus, it should offer all the necessary features without overwhelming the users.
Remember, user engagement is vital for the success of your web application. A great design keeps users hooked, but a bad one drives them away. Shockingly, 25% of project failures stem from UI/UX issues.
In this post, you will find a step-by-step guide for designing an app that maximizes the growth of your business. Let’s dive in!
What is web application design?
Web application design is the process of crafting a seamless user experience (UX) that meets real user needs through intuitive interfaces (UI).
In the web application design process, users are the top priority. It focuses on the following:
- How users interact with the web app
- Whether the app meets user needs effectively
- How easily users can find what they're looking for
Think of UI as the application's look; its style, colors, and visual narrative. On the other hand, UX is all about how the app operates; its navigation, and user-friendliness. Together, they team up to shape a killer web app!
Web App Design vs Website Design: What’s the difference?
Web apps and websites have similarities. Both can be accessed via browsers. Unlike native mobile apps, they don’t need any installation.
But what sets them apart?
Websites inform and encourage user actions. They have static pages and an open user flow. For example, a SaaS product website informs users about the product and its team.
On the other hand, web apps are dynamic. They enable users to perform tasks interactively, following structured paths based on their objectives.
Key Elements of The Best Web Application Design
The best web application design revolves around five key elements: user interface, usability, content, creativity, and accessibility. Let's break them down.
1. User Interface
From tiny icons to full-screen backgrounds, the user interface encompasses everything on a webpage. It’s the first layer of your brand impression. So, it’s critical to make the user interface impeccable to engage and retain your potential customers.
- Keep it simple, as fancy stuff can hamper performance.
- Ensure no compatibility hiccups, as your interface must shine across all devices.
- Make navigation seamless so users can quickly find the information they are looking for.
- Speed is your ally, optimize performance for quick access.
- Clearly convey your message with a clean, expressive design.
Usability is all about making tasks easy, swift, and memorable for users. It consists of several key components:
- Learnability: Can newcomers easily accomplish tasks?
- Efficiency: How swiftly can users complete tasks?
- Memorability: Can returning users remember how to use your interface?
- Errors: How easily can users recover from mistakes?
- Satisfaction: Is your website enjoyable to use?
- Utility: Does your site provide the services users need?
These are vital components that make your site valuable to your potential customers. To enhance usability, don't just follow best practices. Test your interface extensively. Let regular users have a go and learn from their actions and errors.
Content is king! Without compelling content, users will leave quickly, no matter how beautiful your web application design is. So, you must prioritize valuable, informative, and engaging content that answers users' questions.
How can I create great content?
Tell a Story
Craft a narrative about your product and brand, engaging visitors with facts and benefits. Lead them from start to end, ensuring every piece of content adds value.
Use language that everyone can understand. Avoid jargon and keep it casual. Complex terms scare users away.
Focus on Proper Formatting
Proper formatting is key. If your information is hard to read, users will leave. Keep it clean and easy to digest to keep users engaged.
While simplicity is vital, your web app design shouldn't be dull. It needs to be creative to create a lasting impression and overall vibe.
Apply Artistic Touch
Use stunning illustrations, spectacular images, beautiful typography, and eye-pleasing animations to set your site apart and support your brand.
Be unique, but avoid confusing users with overly complex ideas. Use creativity to strengthen your brand and stand out from the competition.
Accessibility goes beyond people with disabilities, including those with slow internet connections.
When your web application is accessible, everyone can explore, make purchases, and recommend it. Also, it can improve your SEO and help you to ensure legal compliance in different countries.
So, how can you enhance the accessibility of your web application design? Start with mobile-friendliness, browser compatibility, and overall optimization. Also, focus on assistive technologies (ATs).
Essential UI Elements for Accessibility
You must include these elements on your homepage for a great user experience:
- Contact Form: Allows easy communication.
- Chat: Facilitates instant customer support.
- Calls: Enable direct contact for urgent queries.
- Testimonials: Build trust with user reviews.
- Pricing Table: Allows transparent cost breakdown.
- Service Section: Helps you to highlight your offerings.
- Cookie Notification: Ensures user privacy and compliance.
Web Application Design Process – How to Design a Web App in 7 Steps
1. Set design goals
The first step is defining clear goals. You have to use a design brief as your project's backbone and communication tool for customers and designers.
The design brief gives the designer an idea of what the user needs in the product and what type of design will fulfill the needs and requirements. A design brief for a web application should include:
- Overview: Clearly define the web app's main function to align the design with its purpose.
- Target Audience: Understand user preferences and needs to influence design choices.
- Scope: Specify whether it's a new or updated web app design project.
- Success Criteria: Consider KPIs and OKRs to meet project objectives.
- Project Team: List team members and their roles.
- Deadlines: Set delivery dates and milestones, aligning them with the broader development schedule.
2. Conduct Market Research
Before creating a web application design, you need to understand the market, your potential customers, and your competitors. There are different ways to conduct market research.
- Interview your target market: Dive into users' desires and understand their needs. Observe their daily routines for insights.
- Survey existing users: If you already have an app, send surveys to collect user preferences and pain points.
3. Empathize with users
The next step is to take your user research to the next level by empathizing with your users. There are various methods to do this. Here are a few of them:
Create an empathy map
The empathy map is a visual tool for capturing user behaviors, thoughts, actions, and feelings. It helps you to reveal hidden user needs and research gaps.
The empathy map is incredibly useful because it helps you to:
- Develop a common and shared understanding of your users
- Discover weaknesses in your user research
- Uncover needs that sometimes even users don't know about
Draft user personas
Personas enable you to define a standard representation of your users’ behaviors, challenges, and motivations. It helps you to make targeted design decisions.
Create a storyboard
Storyboard is a low-fidelity visual depicting user actions, thoughts, goals, and emotions. It helps you to enhance your understanding of user scenarios.
Define functional scenarios
Define specific user goals and design an experience matching actual requirements. Then think about the best possible experience for users to complete that scenario.
4. Choose a design concept
In this step, a UI designer transforms a blank canvas into a masterpiece, drawing inspiration from previous research.
You should start with a moodboard, gather alignment from your stakeholders, then move onto an ideation map to flesh out your design concept.
The moodboard is a visual representation of your product's look. It combines images, styles, text, colors, and icons to present the purpose of your web application design.
The ideation map enables you to implement and compare various ideas, listing positive and negative aspects. It helps you to uncover the best design choices.
5. Prototype the design
Prototyping transforms ideas into an interactive reality. It allows stakeholders to engage with your product concept visually and functionally. In this stage, you will work from low-fidelity to high-fidelity mockups of your web app.
Wireframes help you to create the blueprint of your digital product, outlining interface elements on each page to give stakeholders an early sense of the final product. You can use various tools, like Figma, Sketch, Axure, and Balsamiq, to create them quickly.
Next, you will bring wireframes to life with visual images by using tools like Figma. You will link screens to create a digital prototype resembling the final product.
6. Test and iterate
In this stage, you put your prototype to the test. It enables you to get feedback from real users to determine how user-friendly and effective your product is.
There are several types of usability testing including:
Comparative Usability Testing
You can use this method to compare your web app with competitors or different versions to identify strengths and weaknesses, optimizing design based on real user feedback.
Explorative Usability Testing
With explorative usability testing, you can gather open-ended feedback in the early design phase to pinpoint design gaps and guide future iterations.
After necessary modifications and product launch, you need to evaluate web apps against functionality and user experience standards, ensuring they meet user needs and expectations.
7. Refine and update
As a designer, your work doesn’t stop at product launch. You have to continuously enhance the web application design based on evolving UI/UX trends.
After the launch, ongoing testing and evaluation ensure that the product's core functions are still effective for the users. It involves observing user interactions to make necessary design optimization.
To meet evolving user and business needs, you have to add features, adopt new technologies, and integrate your web app with other products.
Rebranding or modernization of your web app may require a full redesign. Start afresh to ensure nothing is overlooked.
5 Proven Tips to Create Engaging Web Application Designs
1. Follow UX Laws
While designing a user interface, you should follow standard design patterns for page structure, workflows, and navigation. Place familiar elements where users expect them, like the logo on the top left.
2. Aim for Visual Consistency
The more visually consistent your web app is across web pages and devices, the easier it will be for users to use and engage with your app. For example, Google maintains visual consistency through consistent components and color schemes in its apps. It facilitates seamless transitions between desktop and mobile versions.
3. Make Use of High Contrast
High contrast in web apps enhances element distinction, creating visually appealing designs. It guides users to important elements, drawing attention and ensuring easy navigation. For example, Slack uses contrasting purple to highlight active channels, enhancing usability and user intuition.
4. Have a Clear Call to Action
A well-placed, distinct Call to Action (CTA) guides users effectively, telling them what to do and how to do it. Make sure that it is highly visible and conveys its purpose concisely. Use clear text, and make the CTAs stand out against the background.
5. Don’t Just Focus on One Device
Embrace responsive web app design, where elements adapt to different devices, including PCs, phones, and tablets. It will help you to maintain a high user engagement and prevent customers from abandoning your web app.
Examples of Web Application Design For Inspiration
1. Empower’s Media Agent
Empower’s Media Agent combines extensive media agency planning experience and AI insights to help you plan, buy, and optimize campaigns. Its goal is to help you achieve better media ROI.
Its homepage utilizes user-centric messaging effectively. Also, it delivers clear product value and passes WCAG AA legibility. On top of that, the homepage prioritizes the product overview video to quickly draw the attention of site visitors.
UX 4Sight worked on redesigning the website of Media Agent, which resulted in a staggering 14x ROI sales lift of $1.7M!
2. Bitcoin of America
Bitcoin of America (BOA) is a digital currency exchange service. BOA allows customers to exchange Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies online through wire transfers.
Its homepage has a simplified layout to quickly draw the attention of people. Also, it has a limited number of colors for text and icons.
UX 4Sight worked on redesigning BOA’s website, resulting in an enhanced online account conversions by 67% and a reduced bounce rate of 12%.
3. Immediate Care Center of Westmont (ICCW)
Exceptional web app design is paramount in today's dynamic landscape. It's more than just aesthetics. It's an experience that captivates, converts, and steers your business toward sustainable growth.
At UX 4Sight, we recognize the individuality of each web app. Our seasoned team, steeped in UX wisdom, accompanies you on this transformative expedition. We don’t just design web applications. We craft unforgettable experiences.
Our portfolio of successful case studies demonstrates our ability to deliver tangible, measurable results for our clients across various industries. From optimizing conversions to enhancing user engagement, we've consistently achieved outcomes that elevate our clients' digital presence.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or revamping your web apps, you should seriously consider partnering with UX4Sight. Together, we will craft a design that delivers impactful results and encourages users to take action. Contact us today and embark on a design journey that truly matters!
Abdul has helped over 40 Fortune 500 companies make informed user-centered design decisions through evidence-based user research and UX best practices. As an Adjunct Professor, Abdul has taught in DePaul University’s graduate UX programs and for nine other universities.