Appearance Matters in Websites and Mobile Apps

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People Looking At Mobile Phone
As a developer, I get excited about everything I am working on when developing websites and mobile apps. It is in my interest to be familiar with every aspect from design to the different components that go into development including the type and versions of components used.

For the average user, most of these details are just noise. If I tell a client that their website is going to be built on the Laravel framework or their mobile app will be built on Flutter, they just nod, but what they are really interested to know is how it is going to look like and how fast it will run!

Form Over Function

During development, there are two major considerations that have to be taken into account. One is form, and the other is function. Building a great website or mobile app usually involves striking a balance between the two.

As discussed in the blog post Form and Function In Web Design, form deals with the usability and aesthetics features whilst function is all about providing the necessary functionality that will bring value to the user experience and help “solve a problem”.

Are we to say one is more important than the other? Not necessarily; even though their impact is variable. Without form, engagement suffers but when we neglect function the user experience is affected. This is why it is important to strike a balance.

Striking a balance does not mean we give the two factors equal weight. It simply means we give careful thought on how each is going to play a role in the development and evolution of a website or mobile app.

Whilst striking this balance, it is crucial to pay attention to form in how a website or mobile app looks like. It does not take much to come to the conclusion that appearances matter. After all, who does not like something that looks great, whether it be a car or a website.

First Impressions Matter

Studies show that it takes 0.1 seconds for a person to form a first impression of another person. This is why we should all try to be at our very best when meeting new people because that first impression, even though formed in such a short time, it has lasting implications.

Websites are no different, except that the time it takes for users to form an impression of a websites is shorter than for people forming opinions of each other. It takes users 0.05 seconds to form an opinion of a website. In this time, users will decide whether to continue using the site or abandon it.

Due to differences in the way websites and mobile apps are used and the way they function, it is not possible to measure the time it takes for users to abandon them. However, statistically, 1 in 4 users of mobile apps abandon apps after the first use.

From these statistics, it is clear how crucial it is to carry a good first impression. A bad first impression means abandoned websites and mobile apps and abandoned websites and mobile apps means lost customers.

Keeping Up Appearances

The appearance of a website or mobile app is one of the major factors that will determine the retention of users. Even if a website has great functionality, it will fail to retain users so that they can eventually experience that functionality.

In one survey, it is reported that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive. This is significant and should be addressed. I personally will perceive an unattractive website as untrustworthy on may levels including on security. The reactions for unattractive apps are also similar.

How do you go about improving the appearance for websites and mobile apps? Obviously the methods are different between websites and mobile apps but the style considerations are very similar.

The best answer to improving appearances for websites and mobile apps lies in following best-practice guidelines. Web design has its commonly accepted guidelines on how to style websites and the same is true for mobile apps.

By following the guidelines for your website or mobile app you ensure that your website and mobile apps are according to standards. There is a certain expectation that users of websites and mobile apps hold in their mind and you won't go wrong with design by being consistent with these standards.

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