Three Secrets of a Mobile App Designer

Mobile UI/UX designers are using "one of the richest canvasses a designer can dream of," according to Sergio Nouvel, a leading designer and entrepreneur. Some of the most valuable real estate available is on your smartphone screen, positioning mobile UI/UX designers as highly influential players in the mobile space.

Mobile app designers are more than mere pixel pushers; rather, they are the individuals who consider end-users' complete experience as they interact with a mobile app. Designers aim to continuously improve usability and provide a visceral connection between the app and the user. Though mobile UI/UX designers by nature are a varied bunch, here are three secrets associated with the job:

1. They are empathetic. The ability to understand another person's experiences and emotions is core to user-centered design. A UI/UX designer's job is to predict human behavior and anticipate needs before the user even knows they exist. UI/UX designers are tasked with thoroughly examining every use case and continuously revisiting how a product can be more intuitive, seamless, and frictionless.

Take a recommendation app, for example: a UI/UX designer should consider the app as a tool aligned with the user's needs, desires, and behaviors. So while it is evident that the app should provide recommendations in a useful and practical way, a designer must also understand the full story around a human experience in order to bring users exactly what they need with minimal interaction.

2. They cover their brush strokes. There is a clever line in the wonderfully crafted television series Mad Men, where 1950s housewife Betty Draper comments, "You're painting a masterpiece; make sure to hide the brush strokes." That is a UI/UX designer's process in a nutshell. While designers are constantly creating original concepts, many of their ideas and inspirations are derived from observing and refining other design work.

When an app is launched to the App Store, the user just sees the final product, the masterpiece if you will -- it is the job of the designer to make the end product so intuitive that it barely seems designed at all. Take Instagram, for example: the end-user generally finds the flow so simple and visceral that the countless hours of trial and error that went into the creative process seem hard to imagine. The end-user only sees the result, not the process.

3. They are solution-driven. Mobile apps are designed and developed for a variety of reasons- to solve certain business challenges, alleviate specific end-user pain points or to simplify a cumbersome process (like finding a nearby restaurant with Yelp). Consequently, mobile design work usually begins with defining a problem.

Through methodical planning and lateral thinking, a UI/UX designer must strategize more generally about how to solve whichever challenge a project presents. Once this thought process is complete, executing the design component tends to come more naturally and fluidly. In short, plenty of mobile design work takes place outside of a computer program.

Typically, clients come to designers with an idea that is not fully materialized. It is the UI/UX designer's job to carefully define the requirements, flesh out the details, and challenge every element of the client's concept. This iterative process consists of designers asking the tough questions, gaining a thorough understanding of why a product will be valuable and creating viable and pragmatic solutions.