Is mobile app UI design a complete waste of time and money?

More and more companies are constantly chopping and changing their design direction and user interface in a battle to stand out. Many are employing large teams of user interface designers to work on pretty simple products. When it comes to mobile apps, user interface design is little more than a marketing gimmick.

As it stands, a typical workflow for creating an app would look something like this:

  1. Developing Concept
  2. Mapping App Screens
  3. Producing Wireframes
  4. Refining UX
  5. Designing UI
  6. Developing Product

Google Material Design Guidelines

The advanced and highly-detailed style guides that we now receive from Google and Apple lead me to question just why the user interface design phase requires a designer, or is even relevant at all. If the guidelines are there to be closely adhered to, is there really the need to add any significant creative input? The style and parameters are already defined by the guidelines. And sure, apps need assets such as icons, but why don’t all apps on a single platform just use the same set?

Apps across a platform would be far more consistent if the desire to visually differentiate from the next app was suppressed. As I see it, companies are viewing each app as a unique separate entity. I’d argue that it should simply be the operating system that is the entity. All apps within the system should be absolutely consistent.

There is a real lack of consistency across iOS and particularly Android .  Some apps use back arrows, some use hamburger menus, some use icons, and some use text navigation. Some even use the same navigation on Android as on iOS. Apps often try to come up with new and exciting ways to navigate, but it does little more than add to the confusion of the overall OS for the user. Then there’s the case of using a multitude of styles that are wholly inconsistent with one another.

Canopy for Android

I believe there’s too much creative input, and it’s getting in the way of experiencing a consistent experience across an entire system. If we look through Android Niceties, the scale of the issue with consistency becomes apparent.

The app user interface itself should be fairly mundane if usability is to be at its best. After all, it’s there as a way to view data and content, and navigate screens and elements. The differentiation should come in the branding — colors, icons, imagery — not through constantly switching up guideline styles, fonts, and layouts.

We’ll use Android to compare two examples

YouTube for Android

Google’s latest iteration of the YouTube app is a perfect example of using the style guide effectively. The icons are default, there is a single easy-to-use navigation, and the contrast and colors are on point. It avoids unnecessary gimmicks and additions to the user interface, and maintains an experience in line with the system itself.

Snapchat for Android

A poor example would be Snapchat. It does very little in the way of adhering to Material guidelines, and instead appears more interested in standing out visually, and applying their brand throughout the app. It is dissimilar to any other app and is entirely ill-fitting on the Android OS. There is very little to differentiate between this and the iOS counterpart. As much a UX issue as a UI issue, it’s a prime example of disregarding the guidelines and the user in the desire to be unique.

Unspecific to Snapchat, I’m intrigued when I see the size of design teams working on the simplest of apps. When you have 10, 20, 30+ user interface designers all working full-time on a mobile app with two or three main screens, the question has to be asked whether it’s healthy for the end user. This constant drifting away from system guidelines, and changing of styles, has little benefit and could be entirely avoided. It would reduce timescales, efficiency, and cost.

I believe many startups and established companies oversee this and it turns almost into a design popularity contest. The user interface becomes a marketing gimmick, which is far from its purpose.

User interface designers should be creating styles for systems as a whole, and limiting individual app creative input to branding, marketing, advertising, and landing pages. This way, mobile operating systems will become far more cohesive and in the end that will benefit the only person that matters: the user.

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Popular design news of the week: September 19, 2016 – September 25, 2016

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

36 Brilliant User Interface Animations


Want to Get Better at Coding? Play this Game


Google Launches Allo


Oh S***, Git.


15 Must-have Chrome Extensions for Web Designers


CSS Grid Layout: Fluid Columns and Better Gutters


Reimagining Dreamweaver: Creating the Ultimate Modern UI for Web Design


WordPress Takes a Leap with Desktop Application, Calypso


Thimble by Mozilla: An Online Code Editor for Learners and Educators


Rob Janoff on his Logo for Apple


Designing Experience


Why your Client Needs a Responsive Website — not an App


CSS Grid Layout: A Quick Start Guide


21 Things that Won’t Help You Become a Better Designer


The Age of the Wordless Logo


BYOR – Upload your Resume and Have AI Analyze it


Simple Design is Making us Dumb


Inspirational Examples of UI Style Guides


Google Design – Making Motion Meaningful


Snapchat Releases First Hardware Product, Spectacles


What’s the Greatest Logo of all Time?


How to Think like a Hacker


Here’s your First Look at Tesla’s New Autopilot and UI


Site Design:


5 Things I Wish Google Allo Could do


Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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Comics of the week #358

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

In a manner of speaking

Appearance counts


Don’t confuse the two

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

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LinkedIn announces a new online platform

Hot on the heels of the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft this year and the redesign of the company’s iOS and Android apps last year, LinkedIn will be debuting a new desktop experience. In a recent press event, the company also unveiled LinkedIn Learning, a platform designed to help its users discover and develop various skills by way of a data-driven and personalized learning experience.

In a recent blog post, LinkedIn’s VP of Product, Ryan Roslansky, established that LinkedIn’s redesigned desktop interface will take inspiration from its flagship mobile app that came out with a new design last December. The app’s redesign was met with a generally positive response, so it makes sense for the company to try and duplicate what it did right with its mobile app for its desktop, too.

The redesigned desktop experience will rely on minimalistic touches to bring users a cleaner, more intuitive, and simpler approach for users to efficiently access their jobs, insights and info that they require. As a result, the user experience should see a noticeable boon as well: Thanks to the redesign, professionals can go into their daily meetings with better preparation or, alternately, easily learn more about a new business skill that they’re interested in mastering.

the largest redesign since LinkedIn’s inception

Roslansky is calling this desktop redesign “the largest redesign since LinkedIn’s inception,” so it will be interesting to see just how far the company will go to give users a better UX while still staying faithful to the LinkedIn brand.

In tandem with this, the company’s messaging feature gets an upgrade as well as it gets more intelligent and gets more consistent with the experience offered on the company’s redesigned mobile apps. How does this look on desktop? The revamped Messaging approach bears a remarkable resemblance to Facebook’s chat feature. LinkedIn also revealed the integration of a bot platform that could conceivably be utilized for various purposes, such as scheduling meetings.

LinkedIn also revealed the integration of a bot platform

As for the new online platform, LinkedIn Learning will bring together content from, which LinkedIn owns, and the company’s own professional network and rich data. LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to provide its users with this service designed to appeal to their thirst for continuing education and knowledge.

LinkedIn says that it can leverage its own knowledge of how jobs and skills evolve over a period of time to identify various skills that its users require and then offer expert-led courses that allow them to acquire said skills.

LinkedIn Learning is envisioned as a freemium service, yet all of the company’s users will have the chance to try the new service free for one month. LinkedIn will also continue with its goal to constantly keep enhancing the content on as part of its broader ambition to create opportunities in the global workforce. In the end, the launch of LinkedIn Learning is consistent with Microsoft’s (LinkedIn’s new owner) mission to empower professionals, businesses and organizations to achieve and earn more.

With the company’s desktop redesign and debut of its new learning platform, it’ll be interesting to see how well-received LinkedIn’s new look and features will be.

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Free download: Citysets icons

There’s something about the world’s greatest cities that makes them instantly recognizable. Whether it’s a red double-decker bus or a yellow taxi cab, whether it’s an iconic opera house or a unique pastry; a simple glimpse and you know exactly where you are.

Citysets is a personal project by Bryn Taylor that tries to capture that essence by producing a unique set of icons tailored to each city experience.

The first four cities to be represented are London, New York, Paris, and Sydney. There are 79 icons in total, divided over the four cities. Some of our favorites include: From London, the Underground sign, St. Pauls, and a phone box; from New York, the pizza slice, the pretzel, and the Chrysler building; from Paris, the croissant, the chef’s hat, and the Eiffel tower; from Sydney, the cork hat, the shrimp, and the koala.

We can’t wait to see what Taylor comes up with next! Sure, these four are great cities, but what about New Orleans? Barcelona? Amsterdam? Tokyo? The possibilities are endless for this exciting project…

Each city’s icon set comes in .ai, .sketch, and .svg format. And they’re free for personal and commercial use. Download them all beneath the preview:

Please enter your email address below and click the download button. The download link will be sent to you by email, or if you have already subscribed, the download will begin immediately.

Superb Fonts Bundle of 7 Script & Display Typefaces – only $7!


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Mozilla’s rebrand reaches the final four

Mozilla’s rebranding project has been going on the entire Summer. Now, as we head into the Fall, the company’s rebranding objective is nearing the final stretch. It’s heading into the long-awaited design-development phase with four, potential designs being the final candidates for the company’s new image.

In a new article on the Johnson Banks’ website (the design consultancy working with Mozilla on the rebranding) the company revealed that only four designs are now in the running for the new Mozilla logo, down from seven in August. In the next couple of weeks, these four choices are going to be narrowed down further still until the final brand-identify recommendation—whatever shape and form that takes—is unveiled in October.

The final, four candidates were selected based upon three, main criteria. They are:

  • The principles of good design;
  • Mozilla community feedback for the seven concepts unveiled in August;
  • Mozilla’s overall branding strategy.

Without further ado, here’s a quick look at the four finalists…

Protocol 2.0

So named because it symbolizes Mozilla’s role at the center of the web, Protocol 2.0 is a logo that essentially places the Internet http:// protocol right into the logo type mark. The beauty of Protocol 2.0 is the flexibility it affords: Mozilla has been experimenting with swapping out certain characters in this proposed work mark, so that emoticons and font characters could suddenly appear in the new logo.

The Flame

Perhaps no symbol is as universally well-understood as fire. The company is considering a flame logo to represent its drive to remain the beacon for the ideal of the equal, open and accessible web for all. Community’s also important to Mozilla, and a flame would symbolize the warmth of community, too.

If you look closer, you’ll also see that this logo contender actually merges the “M” for “Mozilla” with the flame. The final iteration is a pixelated version that lends itself well to animation.

The Burst

The Burst sort of looks like a fireworks display going off, but there is heavy symbolism in this logo contender. It’s been influenced by two schools of thought. First, there’s a new narrative characterized by Mozilla’s advocacy for the health of the web. Second, there’s the visual aspect characterized by the company’s investigation of classic web imagery and data-led ideas.

The number five also figures into this logo, as Mozilla’s gathering data around five, vital measurements, and a capital “M” has five nodes. Hence, the five bursts.

Dino 2.0

Heavily inspired by a previous logo suggestion called “The Eye,” Dino 2.0 utilizes the reptile eye shape forged out of the “O” in the word “Mozilla”. Dino 2.0 sports a noticeable dinosaur’s head that features white type on a red chevron.

Plans call for this logo idea to bite, thanks to moving GIF animations, and showcase a slew of vibrant colors to demonstrate that Mozilla really is for everyone.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as Mozilla moves closer to finalizing its new brand identity.

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