Create App Design Guidelines

Today I will talk about why you should and how to create app design guidelines. Just as organizations create visual identity guidelines and even design guidelines for their web sites, it’s a good idea to create app design guidelines for their apps.

All organizations have visual identity guidelines (even if they are sometimes called something else) that specify core rules about their identity. It contains things like how the logotype looks and can be used, and which colors, fonts, and icons that should be used in marketing material. They usually also show how to apply the rules by giving practical examples. Many organizations have gone further and created design guidelines for their web presence with similar rules and examples.

The fairly new channel of mobile apps has been used for all kinds of playful trial-and-error when it comes to both design and function. This is a good thing in general, but for an organization that wants to build their brand in a structured way, it’s good to set up some basic rules on how their apps should be designed. Just as for the core or web guidelines, the main reasons for creating app design guidelines is that it will ensure a consistent look of all the apps, it will contribute to a better user experience, and will also save a lot of time when designing and implementing these apps.

When creating app design guidelines, the most important thing to decide is to choose whether the design should be generic for all the mobile platforms, or if there should be specific guidelines for each platform. As app users on a particular platform expect the apps to look and work in a specific way, my recommendation is to go with guidelines that are specific to each platform. For most organizations, supporting the two main platforms, iOS and Android, is enough as in most parts of the world they represent well over 90% of the users. If support for more platforms is required, it can become too expensive to build many different user experiences, but if generic guidelines are created, great caution needs to be taken to make sure users on each platform understand and accept the user experience.

The first thing to define in the guidelines is the app identity, and with that I mean the look of the app icon, name, splash screen, colors, fonts, icons in app, bars, buttons, and so on. For example, you can see on the right how the app icon can be designed to always include the logotype at the bottom, and then an image or icon that is specific to the app can be put above the logotype. A very important part of the guidelines is the definition of how the navigation should work, and include things like top bars, back buttons, drawer menus, tab bars, etc. A consistent way to navigate the apps will make the users more efficient, and will also save a lot of time during both implementation and maintenance. It’s also a good idea to define the common screens, like login, sign up, account, settings, about, etc, and also the common elements, like search, messages, filter and sorting, etc. This will also speed the implementation of the apps, as these common screens and elements can be created as reusable components.

So that’s why you should and how you can create app design guidelines.