Top 7 Mobile App Design Trends for 2020 | App Owner’s Guide with Examples
Do you want to create a mobile application that will steal its users’ hearts? Then you’re in the right place. Discover the top mobile app design trends for 2020.
What are the key mobile app design trends to follow in 2020? Well, the final look of any mobile app depends on multiple aspects, like technology, trendsetters in particular industries, project criteria, business requirements, user needs, and more. That means that predicting what will be popular generally, in every sector, is not so easy, because each business has its own rules.
I will give you an example. I worked on a project where the client was very inspired by the Uber application. While analyzing their competitors, I studied several dozens of similar apps in various fields of transport: public transport, taxis, cargo transport, etc. Then, I saw a significant change in Uber’s search engine component.
Do you know what happened next?
The other applications have copied this solution. Trends may vary, depending on the industry. It is worth following large companies because they often dictate how the specific features will look.
This article will take an overview of the leading mobile app development trends for 2020 and describes how they shape mobile app design best practices. I’ll also present 7 main design trends noticed by the largest researching companies in this subject, such as NN Norman Group, Deloitte, PwC, and even my own observations.
Maybe this information will help your application to become a trendsetter in your industry? I hope so!
What will you learn from this article?
Skip to a section:
- Mobile market potential – a quick overview
- What is happening in the mobile market in the first quarter of 2020
- UX, UI, and Product Design – what do they mean and why you should care about trends in this area?
- Top 7 mobile app design trends that will gain importance in 2020 with examples:
Mobile market potential – a quick overview
Before we go to describing the latest mobile app design trends that will skyrocket in 2020, let’s take a look at the mobile application market and its potential.
The mobile phone market is continuously growing every year. Over 1.56 billion (sic!) smartphones are sold annually.1 Each of these smartphone owners is your potential user. In 2019 alone, users downloaded 204 billion applications, which gave app owners a total, combined revenue of $461.7 billion.2
According to Statistica, revenues from mobile apps will increase significantly in 2020 by itself, compared to the previous year, will be higher by more than $120 billion. That means almost 25% growth compared to 2019.
What do those numbers mean to you and your users?
The average American checks his smartphone every 12 minutes. 10% of people check their phones every four minutes. People use smartphones at work, at home, on the street, when they eat, in bed, and even while driving their car. It’s highly likely that you are reading this article on your phone now.3
What are they all doing on their phones? That probably doesn’t surprise you: they’ve spent 90% of the mobile time using applications. This means there’s a great opportunity to arrive on the mobile app market.
If you want to learn more about mobile app basics, check on mobile app development guide for businesses.
What will happen in 2020?
The first quarter of 2020 closed with substantial perturbations of markets around the world. Global quarantine and the epidemiological situation affect almost all branches of business across the globe. But not for everyone. One of the several bucking this trend, next to computer entertainments or video streaming platforms, are mobile apps. Studying statistics in March this year, you can notice increases in the use of the most popular applications range from 100% to even 800%.
Of course, the current Coronavirus crisis isn’t beneficial. The situation, which touches us all over the world, is worrying and incomparable to anything else. History shows that every crisis also gives new opportunities and creates original services that can adjust your business to this new reality. Let’s take a brief look at 2008.
How previous crises become a game-changer for refreshed services
The financial crisis in 2008 hit the world economy seriously and caused many obstacles that we can still feel today. But any large market fluctuations and drops in individual sectors provide an excellent opportunity for developing new services. More flexible and faster companies can take advantage of this opportunity. One example is Airbnb, which revolutionized short-term rental by adapting to the property crash market in 2008, and today it is valued at about $38 billion.4
Another example is Uber. The company, best recognized for improving the taxi transport market, valued at about $50 – $100 billion, was also founded in recession time.5
Those startups dominated a massive part of the markets because they provide unique values. Simple and intuitive UX/UI of their services, a recognizable Product Design, and refreshed industry business models are several of them. They are just very careful, bright, and flexible in how they adapt their services to the new market realities. By providing a much higher level of the positive experience the services, using currently available technology, they gained a competitive advantage.
In summary, if you are thinking about developing your mobile app, the current market situation could be an excellent opportunity. The popularity of mobile apps is continuously rising, and there is no indication that this increase will slow down, as I showed in the beginning.
If I got your attention, then let’s get to the main part of this article. Today I will present to you some crucial fields that are worth paying attention to while developing your mobile application in 2020.
User Experience, User Interface, and Product Design – what do they mean?
To understand well the top design trends in mobile app development for 2020, we need to take a quick look at a few definitions. I’d like to be sure that we are on the same page. In the introduction, I have used phrases like UI (User Interface), UX (User Experience), and Product Design for mobile app – but what do they mean?
There is no one precise definition of those terms, like Einstein’s Mass–energy equivalence. Companies and designers understand them in different ways, so the best I can do is to illustrate my meaning.
A well-designed product is a synonym of compromise between business goals, technology, user goals, strategy, and design. It also often includes designing the entire product, including branding, design, usability, and features, as well as all the experiences and emotions triggered during the use of the product.
All these components combined give a product a chance to be successful. Products that simply look right, without research or experience design, would not be enough to succeed. Also, something well-designed information architecture and functions, but not quite good looking, could also have a problem with success.
If you want, here you can learn more about designing UX & UI for a mobile application from a business perspective.
Mobile app design trends that will rule in 2020
Below you can find the top 7 mobile app development trends that are shaping the mobile app design trends in 2020.
1. The increasing importance of Experiences
The competition in the mobile application market is growing rapidly. Every day, hundreds of new digital products appear in the Google and Apple stores. Additionally, it’s a recognized trend that users of mobile applications are much more loyal to the brand than users of other devices, e.g., desktop. Therefore, if your app does not meet the user’s expectations, then there is a chance that he or she will use another one that does – and then they won’t come back.
App owners need to find new ways to make the users co-creators of their experiences. Those who do this will find more active, committed and loyal users.
I will give you the example of McDonald’s. The process of solving the problem of quick ordering has been going on for many years. If you are the occasional customer of McDonald’s, for sure, you’ve noticed the changes in the order process. Years ago, it was possible to make a face to face order only, but a customer didn’t know how long they needed to wait. Later, bills were assigned numbers and the customer could check on the monitor’s estimated time of order preparation. Next, self-order kiosks were created and the customer could place an order using the application.
Today, we can order a burger using the mobile application, practically reducing the ordering and waiting time to a minimum.
In the US market, several McDonald’s restaurants have taken this a step further. They are testing personalized solutions, offering personalized menus and recommendations based on weather, time of day, menu trends and past customer purchases. The application adapts today’s menu to your past purchases to shopping according to the season, weather or even restaurant traffic.
Also, the McDonalds workers can use the data without requiring programmatic skills. Just adjust the menu based on observations. They can use data to determine rush hour and change the menu recommendations to promote the most suitable products, reducing the burden on staff and restaurants. All of those features positively increase the experience of both employees and customers. (source: We the post-digital people. Can your enterprise survive the tech-clash?, TECHNOLOGY VISION 2020 report, Accenture 2020, p.25)
Tinder released the unique feature called “Swipe Night,” an adventure series which required participation and decision-making within the application. Each five-minute episode was broadcast at 18:00 local time on Sunday evening and was only available for six hours. Based on the choices made, users could join in pairs.
The experiences in both examples, are very personalized and unique. The trend can be observed on many levels, but it will appear more and more often. (source: We the post digital people. Can your enterprise survive the tech-clash?, TECHNOLOGY VISION 2020 report, Accenture 2020, s.27)
✔ The increasing importance of experiences – what does it mean for mobile app design in 2020?
When planning your iOS app development or Android app development, you need to think about the unique values & experiences that this product can give its users. Otherwise, it may not be enough to stand out from other applications and maintain user engagement.
2. Reasonable Personalization
Personalization becomes a key feature of enterprises in various sectors. 90% of companies believe that providing highly personalized services is the highest strategic priority. In the retail industry alone, 96% of consumer electronics directors, 97% of the Health and Beauty executives, and 92% of the tourism industry executives declare a strong emphasis on personalization. (source: Millennials: Fueling the Experience Economy. (n.d.). Eventbrite)
An example of a great personalization is Tesla. After creating a driver profile, the vehicle adjusts certain parameters like a seat, driver’s side-view mirror, and steering wheel positioning, as well as unit formats or steering and regenerative braking modes. Elon Musk says that now “any Tesla you drive in the world automatically adjusts to you”. That’s also a car preparation strategy for a growing car-sharing trend. (source)
In a survey conducted by Adobe, 67% of consumers said it is important for companies to adjust content automatically based on the current context of the person. What’s more, 42% said they were annoyed by their non-personalized content. 6 Spotify is doing it right.
Spotify is preparing personalized lists like Discover weekly, Top Songs of 2018, Top Songs of 2019, or the global most listened songs ever. Even the user’s awareness of collecting the data by Spotify is very well received. The application allows for discovering new bands based on the songs you listen to.
I showed an example of Tesla at the beginning of this section. You know what? A user’s Spotify Profile is associated with its Tesla Driver Profile. Personalization progresses very strongly in almost every industry. This trend will grow or even become a necessity.
✔ What does personalization mean for mobile app design in 2020?
Content in the application should be tailored to the user. If you are creating a recipe application, do not add the same recipes for everyone. Perhaps someone chooses Mexican cuisine more often and is not interested in Mediterranean cuisine?
The more the user has the content matched to their tastes, the more they will appreciate your product and associate your brand with their lifestyle, at least when it comes to how they use their mobile.
3. Cognitive technologies and Artificial Intelligence
You can affect the experience of your app using intelligent technologies, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing, visual recognition, and others.
Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple or IBM work hard to develop better quality solutions based on NLP (natural language processing) by machines. Systems like Google BERT and IBM Watson have enabled AI systems to move from understanding only one word to understanding phrases in context.
Semantic understanding improves the machine’s ability to understand human intentions, allowing it to better communicate results without having to steer them continually. (source: We the post-digital people. Can your enterprise survive the tech-clash?, TECHNOLOGY VISION 2020 report, Accenture 2020, s.49)
Let’s take a look at some examples of use in mobile applications.
The ELSA app helps to improve the language accent. For example, being an American, you can learn Spanish and train your accent using AI. The application presents how the accent should sound and analyzes the intonation of given words or whole sentences. The main feature is based on NLP technology.
Adobe Sensei uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help facilitate the work of both designers and automate processes in applications, such as smart video/image cropping, automatically deleting items and retouching videos, etc.
✔ What does Cognitive Technologies and AI mean for mobile app design in 2020?
It means great opportunities to develop better experiences and automation. These technologies personalize and contextualize human-technology interaction, enabling apps to provide customized services with minimal or any human involvement.
Imagine that you create mobile commerce, furniture, and decorations. You need to create interior inspirations. You can implement them manually by buying such projects from a graphic designer. Alternatively, you can use AI to do this to automatically remove backgrounds, adjust contrast and saturation, measure white balance and create beautiful mood boards.
Automation, personalization, and increased experience based on intelligent technologies are already happening, and this aspect will only grow in 2020 and next year.
4. Voice Technology
Commercial applications of digital reality are continually growing. New technologies, which go beyond the confines of keyboards and screens, create new experiences for using apps. Voice control is a trend that has been appearing for several years in the listings of various companies. (source: Deloitte Tech Trends 2020, s.11)
There are many popular voice control technologies on the market, such as Siri, Amazon Echo or Google Assistant.
There’s a reason this technology is one of the top mobile apps design trends for 2020, as they extend the possibility of using the application in other situations than before. This includes cooking, driving the car, ironing, exercising and other activities when our hands are taken. By voice technology, we can still control the interfaces by not using the fingers and keyboards, but by using voice recognition.
Governmental or large-scale commercial projects use this voice functionality to give the same conditions of use for every user – for example, those affected by various dysfunctions.
This virtual assistant, created by Microsoft, helps users keep up to date with the most important matters, as well as complete all their tasks. Using voice is a very simple way you can schedule an appointment, go through a briefing, writing an email, check the weather, and more.
Google Maps allows for free-hand control of the app. It gives opportunities to use voice commands while on the road to help ensure a safe drive. We can ask of “What’s my next turn?”, “Gas stations nearby,” “How’s traffic to home?”, etc.7)
Today apps have used the technologies from small components like voice searches to whole apps like language accent trainers.
✔ What does Voice Technology mean for mobile app design in 2020?
As one of the latest Product Design trends in mobile app development, if voice applications and the sale of intelligent speakers, i.e., echo or Alexa, will continue, it means that users will expect such solutions in the coming years.
Currently, 111.8 million people in the US are using voice search features. That’s almost 40% of all internet users in the US. Research expects about a 9.7% increase in 2020.8 Also, looking at a PricewaterhouseCoopers report from 2018, 71% of Americans prefer to search using voice than to type.9
All of this will have a huge impact on the interfaces of mobile applications.
5. AR – Augmented Reality
3D simulations and human-computer interfaces, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, represent one of the other current Product Design trends in mobile app development that have been growing steadily for several years. Virtual measures or spirit levels are a basic iOS system functionality today.
AR allows you to impose additional functionalities from the virtual world on reality. IKEA uses this technology to create visualizations of apartments. Google Maps, likewise, uses it for navigating and searching places.
The development of this technology will result in more 3D models in graphic interfaces, as well as increasing the use of phone cameras to apply virtual layers to reality.
In 2018, IKEA Place became the second-most-popular free mobile AR app on the Apple Store. Even gaming apps were less popular than IKEA Place. The app solves the problem of fitting furniture to customers’ interiors. Just turn on the camera, choose a product from the store and then simply put it in the desired place.10
In 2019, Google launched a beta version of navigation based on augmented reality. The main idea was to create a live view function of the nearest places – not when driving a car or walking, but to better navigate in terms of terrain orientation.
Being in a foreign city and looking for a restaurant or street, users can easily find the right direction.
✔ What does AR/VR mean for mobile app design in 2020?
First of all, it involves expanding the graphic interface with a new space that can become a room or street. In VR, the functionalities go beyond the smartphone screen and can be located anywhere we want. Using map coordinates, i.e., Google Maps, we can set a marker on the map, kilometers from the place where we are. Using IKEA, the component in the form of a chair can be in another room.
AR offers great potential for providing an even more unique experience for mobile applications, which is why it’s one of the top design trends in mobile app development for 2020. It opens up new channels.
If an animation is used carefully, then it can be helpful and communicative. Sophisticated animations that do not pay attention to the appropriate functionalities make the interface more fluid and pleasant.
In application markets, you can see projects in which the number of moving parts makes you dizzy. Animations must perform and help user expectations regarding the UI. They should primarily be used as a tool for providing users with easily noticeable, smooth functions.11
Craft is not released yet but, on Dribble this year, a fragment of the animation from this tool appeared. The application uses many native iPadOS functionalities, but it’s a great example of how animations can be used in practice.
Uber, from the beginning, paid great attention to the user experience of its service. In current versions of the application, the animations and movement are refined to perfection. If you are a user of their services, I encourage you to observe how smooth and helpful animations in the application are.
✔ What do animations mean for mobile app design in 2020?
Animations help to intensify the experience and trigger additional emotions, i.e., joy, happiness, liking. Facebook and emojis are a good example of this.
When designing the mobile application, it is worth considering these issues, because the final product animations will increase satisfaction and comfort of use.
7. IoT and adaptable interfaces to different devices
The Internet of Things is a network of connected devices that interact and exchange information with each other.12 As in the case of voice technologies, also here, Apple’s move in this direction implied an increase in the importance of IoT in application interfaces.
“Markets research suggests that such efforts are already underway: The digital twin market—worth US$3.8 billion in 2019—is projected to reach US$35.8 billion in value by 2025.” – says Deloitte Insights. (source: Deloitte Tech Trends 2020, s.11). “Digital twin” refers to a digital replica of physical assets, processes, and systems that can be used for various purposes.
We have developed a lot of successful projects in the field of IoT, and we would agree wholeheartedly. With the increasing popularity and more diverse use cases, this is certainly one of the top trends in digital product design for 2020.
Years ago, Apple’s Universal Clipboard functionality showed how easy and comfortable it could be using different devices via the same, connected software. Currently, with Apple products, there is a singular environment shared across every device, whether they’re smartwatches, iPhones, iPads, MacBooks or even Apple TVs.
These trends will be increasing in almost every field, giving you possibilities such as real-time communication, analysis, prediction, response, etc. If your offline product does not yet use online technology, this is the last bell to get started.
The Loop App connects to the Wi-Fi display and allows you to seamlessly share video, photos & video chat with your friends and family. The content uploaded on the Loop Display can be added by different users at the same time on different devices.
Support for multiple resolutions requires the provision of multiple variables and the customization of the user interface to provide a high level of user experience.
What does IoT mean for a mobile application?
Do you consider building an app for both Android and iOS? Good! But consider also Tablets, Desktops, or even Smart Watches.
For example, If you’re running the app for home exercises, why not use the activities data from a smartwatch?
Are you designing a recipe application? Why not use data from the fridge and present recipes based on the products you have? Similar projects already exist, but I’m trying to give you just a quick view of possibilities.
Think about the devices in our lives. Smart TVs, Smart Speakers, Light Controllers, Door Lockers, Smart Fridges, Smart Mirrors, Smart Windows, Smart Cars and much, much more – they give us high broad possibilities to create unique values of your mobile product.
Top mobile apps design trends for 2020 – Takeaways
- Mobile applications will continue to grow in popularity.
- Focus on the real needs of users and provide them with the solutions they expect.
- Do not suggest what looks nice on rankings, but what looks and works physically in app stores.
- Think twice before implementing complicated functionality. Maybe it can be done more simply.
- Pay close attention to the user experience. Think about what emotions accompany you when using the application and ask your friends about the same.
- Treat your users as if they were your friends. Greater personalization means more significant commitment and attachment, just like in friendship.
- Consider whether artificial intelligence can help your application understand users or provide them with a unique experience.
- Artificial intelligence can take your application to a completely different level of user experience by providing unique functionalities in real-time.
- AR can provide unique values to your users or employees. It may be worth a try.
- Animations and movies are the future. The smoother the interface works, the better.
- The combination of many devices in one environment gives indescribable quality in the usability of the software.
We hope that our list of the latest mobile app design trends in 2020 will help you to create a top-notch mobile product that your users will love! If you are still not sure how to start, book a 3 day Product Design Workshop with our design experts who will help you to clarify your vision. As a Product Owner, you should also check out why it is worth to design and develop your app at the same software house.