A Practical Guide to Redesigning Your Mobile App

Image for post
Image for post

How do you know that it’s time to redesign your app? Is it when your competitors update, or when you get inspired by some designs from Dribbble? Or should your redesign decision depend on your analytics reports and rates that are valuable for your specific business? We’ve prepared a simple guide on when you really should redesign your app and how to do it properly.

Is a redesign a solution? Yes!

We’ll start by reminding you about the benefits that the website redesign process brings. Obviously, these include happier customers and increased sales. As the cherry on top, your happy customers can quickly become your brand ambassadors, spreading the word about you, onboarding more users, and driving more sales. So how can you achieve that?

Filling holes in your existing UX

Your app should help users solve their challenges. And that’s only possible with well-thought-out user experience. For example, if only a few users of your flight booking platform successfully arrive at the checkout, the root of all your problems is probably improperly designed user flows, unobvious CTAs, and poor microcopy. Or, even worse, your customers may be openly commenting on your app’s poor functionality. In other words, the answer lies in a shoddy user experience design.

Neiman Marcus, a luxury store in the US, redesigned its app to fill the holes in the UX. After thorough research, it was clear that the app had an old and graceless UI, often became slow and out of sync with the server, and, most importantly, didn’t allow users to easily view and buy products. Just like Neiman Marcus, you should start with determining your current UX problems. By redesigning your mobile app UX, you can end up not only with a higher conversion rate but with much more satisfied customers.

Meeting users’ expectations

A redesign is a great chance to bring new technologies to amaze your users and serve them more effectively. But even a great UX design can become obsolete over time. These days, you can hardly make your audience say “Wow!” at seeing an Uber-like app that doesn’t let them schedule rides in advance or track their location, a messenger that doesn’t let them send real-time audio and video, or a social network with a feed that doesn’t adjust to their interests.

Today, these and many other features are necessities. To stay afloat, you should keep up with changes in users’ demands and make good use of advanced technology to cater to ever-growing user appetites. After all, trends are dictated by our needs.

A quick example: everybody knows IKEA and its high-quality affordable furniture. Back in the times when augmented reality had just started rapidly developing, IKEA was the first to implement AR in its store app to let users virtually decorate their homes with furniture from the IKEA catalog.

Within just a couple of weeks, IKEA’s AR app became the second most downloaded app on Google Play Store, with a rating of 4.7 stars, while the company itself was listed among the 50 most innovative businesses according to Fast Company.

Giving a product a cool new look

Even if your app has advanced functionality, if it doesn’t have an intuitive and up-to-date design, at some point people won’t use it. Modern customers are more aware of app design trends and tendencies, jumping between dozens of digital products per day. This fact makes a beautiful design crucial for your business.

Have you seen the Tasker app? It uses NFC technology to automate routine tasks. The app will automatically do stuff like turn your phone volume down or update your apps over Wi-Fi when you approach an NFC tag (and without having to unlock your phone). It’s a great use of advanced technology, isn’t it? But the look is what’s holding Tasker down, and the creators of the app are already considering a redesign.

Image for post
Image for post

When it’s time to redesign

You may already be feeling excited about a whole set of changes you can make to perfect your application and get more money from it. Let’s just double-check that it’s time to give your application a new visual design.

Here are indicators that an app needs a UX and UI optimization:

More than one-third of your users say your app sucks

While reading customer support emails and reviews on Google Play, App Store, and your app’s community, you may see certain red flags:

  • Low app ratings of 3 stars or less (or lower than your usual rating)
  • Multiple negative reviews from old (and especially new) users
  • Definite problems that users tell you about in their reviews
  • Angry comments on social networks

If you see a combination of at least two of the problems above, consider a redesign. Republic TV, an app for the largest Indian TV channel, is a great example of an app in need of a redesign. If you check it out on Google Play, you’ll see terribly low ratings combined with negative reviews and explanations of what exactly has to be changed in the app.

Image for post
Image for post

Your conversion rate is very low

We’ve already mentioned a classic scenario when you realize your sales aren’t that impressive, your users are rather unenthusiastic, and there’s weak growth of your user base. Clearly, your app’s UX requires urgent repair.

Your app idea has changed

Aside from analytics and users’ suggestions, there are other potential reasons for a redesign. While you probably started with a definite idea for your app, things change — including app concepts. Twitter, for instance, began as Odeo, a platform to subscribe to audio podcasts and share them with others.

But success came to Odeo only when it completely changed and became a social network for micro-blogging. Needless to say, this pivot involved a total redesign.

You’re looking for a new target audience

Once you make the huge decision to attract or focus on a new audience, you should prepare a new product vision and marketing strategy. These will inevitably involve specific design requirements that are often different from your current ones.

Flickr is an example of an app that switched to a different target audience. It first was an online role-playing game called Game Neverending, where people could build items, buy them, and interact with other players. One of the game’s features as photo sharing, which got more and more popular. So Game Neverending chose to focus on photo lovers only and turned into Flickr, a community for photo sharing and inspiration.

You’ve rebranded your company

If you’re rebranding your business, you have to restyle an app as well, to stay consistent with the overall brand style. And even though there might be no new features, people have to be able to identify your new brand and associate it with your software. You may also develop a new concept that involves not only graphical changes but even some serious functionality updates. For instance, DoubleClick, an ad tool acquired by Google, became Google Ad Manager. Google also updated the product’s UI and UX in accordance with all other Google products.

Image for post
Image for post

Now that you know when to redesign your application, you surely understand that you should weigh all the pros and cons. Mind you, if your decision was merely influenced by stunning Dribbble works or the desire to beat your competitor at any cost, you’d better stop and think twice. Our recommendations are to be guided by your real business challenges and users’ needs.

Now let’s find out how you can redesign your app to get great results for your business.

How to properly redesign your app

Once you understand that you have to redesign your app, there’s a set of precise steps you should take to ensure your redesign is victorious.

Study your analytics

You know that analytics is the key to making your app problems visible, and you no doubt periodically analyze the current version of your app. As promised, we’ll point out the key metrics to help you measure your app’s design performance.

Goal completion. You need clear goals in your analytics tool (Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager or Firebase, for instance). These are usually conversions or micro-conversions. For example, say your goal is an album purchase (conversion) after users listen to a song (micro-conversion). If your analytics tool shows that users can’t reach a particular goal, it’s quite often because of a tangled UI and UX.

Activation rate. If your app provides onboarding, you should set a goal to check how many users complete the onboarding procedure. To know the activation rate, you’ll have to compare the number of downloads with the number of people who keep using your app once onboarding is over. Is this rate dropping compared to the previous period of analysis? Then it’s time for a redesign (at least of the onboarding screens).

Drop-off rate. When you see that a lot of people stop using your app, you have to find out where they get stuck in the app and why they leave it, and why they do so. Customer journey maps will help you figure out where. They’ll also show you why it’s better for you to take the customer journey in your app yourself.

For instance, you might see that people often leave at the product listing page. The problem could be that users tap on an image to see more information on the product but the image isn’t an active UI element. Users might not know that they have to tap on the details sign under the image. So why not make the product image an active UI element as well?

User satisfaction. Remember those stars on the App Store and Google Play Store? They’re the easiest way to see how satisfied your users are. If you see that your app’s rating has started decreasing, it’s time for a change. And to ensure that the design is the cause of the low satisfaction rate, you should see what people write in comments or even do a survey about your app.

Active users. Here’s one more option to discover if your design is good enough for people: measure Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU). If these numbers are decreasing compared to previous months, consider measuring user satisfaction and requesting user feedback. Quite probably, an old-fashioned design is the root of all evil.

Explore your users’ reviews

Another tool that can help you define your redesign goals is user reviews. Reinforce them with analytical data and you’re indestructible. After you get your reports on user behavior and app performance, it’s time to directly check what your audience says.

Remember the Neiman Marcus app we told you about earlier? The app’s expert designer also did a user review analysis and created a diagram to see how dissatisfied users were and what problems they pointed out.

Image for post
Image for post

At Claritus, we usually create customer journey maps before a redesign based on analytics and user feedback. These maps define where in your app there are bottlenecks that scare away users or don’t deliver the desired conversion results. We did this for one of our clients from India. After building a customer journey map, his app for HRMS, we understood that it was too complicated, combining features for HRs and employees. Users often got confused by the interface and left the app without doing anything.

Ask your users

Don’t forget about conducting proper research to learn if your users are ready for a redesign. Surveys and user reviews will help you discover if it’s time for a big change or a minor refreshing. Pocket (a tool to save interesting texts and videos to view them later) knows how to properly communicate with its users. The company has a dedicated page for people to request new features and to tell users about graphic updates and design elements that were implemented based on requests. This page helps the company demonstrate appreciation for its users and refresh the app’s functionality and design.

Check competitors and trends

Don’t be shy to download a competitor’s app and see why it’s popular. Check the UI and UX against your software and think about what your app is missing. Don’t worry: it’s normal if competitors provide a better user experience and more advanced features. Get inspired by them, learn from their mistakes, and implement new features with a style of your own.

Just remember Snapchat's Stories. With the traditional feed format, people usually picked their best pics and polished them to perfection. But Stories changed that: they were more casual and only lasted for 24 hours. People could simply narrate what happened to them during the day and still get a pleasing reaction from their audience. As a result, stories soon became a popular format in other social apps like Instagram and Facebook, making billions of people use them and turning stories into a trend. But not all common practices will become best practices. So how can you choose one for your app? We recommend the following:

  • Define a business problem and select a design pattern (even if it never existed before).
  • Compare it to other patterns to solve the same problem.
  • Check how many of the top 100 apps in your industry are using this pattern, and see if it really works for them.
  • Prototype an app with the chosen design pattern and test it with users.

It’s okay if all this makes you feel dizzy. Implementing a new design pattern is something you can leave for a design and development team.

Test the new design

Before updating firmware on all devices, Google sends a new version to a limited number of people to see if everything works fine for them. If it doesn’t, Google rolls back the update to fix bugs and ensure apps are functioning stably. Not only Google does this. A lot of apps have a testing community, allowing users to check new versions and give feedback. Such tests help businesses decide if they actually should update their apps at the moment. If you have several new ideas for your app’s redesign, you can do A/B testing to see which alternative is most welcomed by people.

Communicate your updates

Users care about changes in the apps they love. They might be waiting for you to fix some bugs, for new features to come out, or for fresh looks to bring more diversity to your app. If you properly explain the value of your updates, you’ll see better engagement in your app (DAU and MAU can help you measure that).

Provide well-structured release notes. Check how Slack supplies these in its app (under the little gift box icon), giving information on what was added, changed, and fixed.

Image for post
Image for post

Be creative in release notes. Privat24, a Ukrainian banking app, tells funny stories about their designers and mixes notes with their updates and bug fix information. Tumblr also provides a great example of creative release notes:

Image for post
Image for post

Explain new features where they appear in the app. For instance, Instagram demonstrated threaded replies… a threaded reply! How clever. And every new Instagram feature is introduced in a walkthrough guide in stories, making everyone learn about it and try it ASAP.

Image for post
Image for post

Implement changes gradually

Studies prove that users don’t like changes. Especially if you change a lot at once. This is why we recommend performing web or mobile app redesigning step by step so users have time to get used to the updates. Take a look at the Google Ads redesign, which lasted for a year and a half!

Google spent a lot of effort to properly conduct this big change to its ad tool:

  • Carefully analyzed user feedback and looked for the main user problems (complexity, navigating unintuitively, outdated design, and a user experience that was centered around the product and features rather than advertisers and marketers’ needs)
  • Checked the ad tool market along with current design trends (Material Design at that time)
  • Announced the Google Ads redesign and its approximate duration (12 to 18 months)
  • Explained what was going to change (huge UX and UI updates, mainly to fix the issues mentioned above)
  • Updated certain elements and selected advertisers from the active user list for testing and feedback
  • Informed users when the redesign was complete and added a walkthrough guide to see what was different
  • Allowed users to switch between the old and new versions and report problems with the new interface
  • Fixed all bugs and problems that appeared after the redesign
  • Gave users some time to get used to the new interface and then announced the date when Google would stop supporting the old version

Now that’s gradual, isn’t it? As a result, users stayed loyal to Google Ads and the tool got many more new users, helping Google’s ad revenue rise from 79.38 to 116.32 billion dollars.

Wait for things to settle down

According to the redesign experience of YouTube, Tumblr, and Medium, it’s common for users to hate a change right when it happens. But let’s look at what happened when the first update shock settled down for Instagram. Sometime after the UI redesign, the rating of the Instagram app returned to its normal 3.1 stars, while the number of negative mentions went even lower than before the redesign.

Image for post
Image for post

A redesign journey can be either an undue risk or a big success depending on how you approach it. If it’s an upgrade decision resulting from careful consideration, there’s a high chance that the redesign will bring better app performance, a higher retention rate, and more sales. Have you considered partnering with a UI/UX designing agency or a software development company? At Claritus, we help our clients create designs that work and bring money. Don’t hesitate to come to us if you need experts to re-design and re-think your app.

Claritus, a global mobile and web application development services company with 250+ app developers to design apps. https://www.claritusconsulting.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store