Design Phase – An Important Part of Building a Mobile Application

June 03, 2022

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What is the design phase?

The design phase is not only about UI or UX design, but also about designing user scenarios. At this stage, the analytical phase, the draft is prepared. The architecture is created.

This is the familiarisation stage. We get to know your requirements and needs, and you get to know our skills, methodology and working style. Finally, the client receives further instructions as to what steps should be taken to develop the application in the form desired by them.

We have gathered the details of the cooperation during the design phase for you, and we answer your questions about the development of the application. Michał, a UI/UX Designer, who is responsible for architecture and client workshops at EMBIQ on a daily basis, talks about the details.

What is the design phase? Can we leave it out? How much does it affect the future life of the application?

In this phase, we work together to understand requirements and expectations, test/use cases, research the technical state of the market, develop a conceptual design and preliminary architecture, possibly a UI/UX design, a roadmap and estimate the expenses for the next steps. This stage usually takes between 2 and 10 weeks, depending on the project and availability (it is very interactive). We usually suggest starting this stage with a product workshop involving my team (solution architect, designer, project manager) and the client’s team (product owner and technical representative).

What is the difference between UI and UX, and which comes first?

In simplest terms, user Interface (UI) is the visual part of the interface, and user experience (UX) is the arrangement and usability of the elements that make up the interface (e.g. how they are arranged – this is part of UX). EMBIQ’s experts prepare an analysis and a proposal on what to introduce in order to make the future application more usable. Sometimes it happens that a design is nice but not useful and nobody will want to use such an application. Importantly, there is no UI without UX. In most cases, the work begins with the arrangement of all the elements - we need to answer the questions about what options the application will contain, in what place a particular icon will be displayed, where should a button appear, etc. Once this is established, the UI is made for it.

What does the design phase consist of? What is the first step of the design phase?

We start our work by collecting business requirements from the client, doing market research and organising workshops with them. On the basis of these activities, a mock-up is created with the elements drawn out (already looking reasonably well, so that we can imagine the final application), i.e. the first outline of what we can start working on. After this step, we again organise a workshop with the client to discuss the mock-up, and finally, the design is created, and we implement it. The next phase is the introduction of changes and continuous modification of the developed solutions, improvement of certain elements, or adjustment to changes that have occurred in the system.

What do we collect from the customer? Should the customer prepare?

They don’t have to; they just have to come to us with an idea. We can work everything out together at the workshop, depending on needs it may take a day or three days, it all depends on the complexity of the project. We are able to assess this right at the beginning of our cooperation.

What are these workshops like and how long can they last?

We can divide the whole process into different stages, depending on the data we have. We make an appointment with the client, sometimes it’s an on-site meeting and sometimes it’s an online conference call. We are flexible and both forms of meeting produce the same results. During the workshop we start with an informal discussion about the project, getting to know the client’s needs (the most general ones). In the course of the workshop, we develop the initial functionality of the application. We talk a lot, sometimes we draw, it becomes a real brainstorming session, the aim of which is to collect as much information as possible about the future application – what its purpose is, what it should contain, how it should work, and what technologies we will use. In the meeting we also establish the details of further cooperation, such workshops can be one-off, or divided into several meetings – it all depends on how convenient it will be for us to work together.

What about after the workshop?

Literally – we paint. What does the customer get? A reflection of the application. Of course, depending on the project, the mock-up is more or less detailed. The aim is not to produce something ready-made, but an outline of a future application. We are trying to turn their vision into a real application. What the customer wants, and what we can deliver.

If we have the time, after the workshop the client gets more refined mock-ups; they are clickable, which makes it easier to imagine the final application. We try to make most of the elements interactive, make sense and present the functionality of the application as best as possible – a reflection of the application. Sometimes, when there is no time, only the most essential mock-ups are created. Different projects require different levels of detail.

How does this affect the future life of the application, e.g. in the development phase?

The more accurate the design work is, the fewer errors and corrections there will be in the development phase. To put it simply, the preparation of such an application is continuous work; for many of our applications, the client already knew what he or she wanted to achieve and imposed certain requirements on us. We implemented what we had worked out with the client. After the release of the first production version, user feedback is continuous and always verifies our design assumptions. Thanks to this constant listening to users and the customer, we can quickly introduce functional and graphical modifications. Throughout the design and maintenance process, we use A/B tests, statistical studies or heat maps. All of this has a positive impact on in-store mobile app optimisation.

What can happen if we omit the design phase?

I cannot imagine starting a project by skipping this phase. To give up even a minimal version of it is to invite trouble.

In fact, we only need the client’s requirements to start work. The minimum element is the idea itself. Just write to us at advice@embiq.com and we will advise you on the rest.

About the Author

EMBIQ is a software development company with a wide range of competencies in this matter. Our specialists are dedicated to mobile apps development. We also project and construct hardware dedicated to the needs of IoT (Smart City, Smart Metering, Smart Industry, Smart Agriculture), Asset Tracking, Indoor and Outdoor positioning systems concepts.

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