mobile app design

Mobile app design in 2019

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1. Navigation 2.0

There has been long going debate on top vs bottom navigation, we will finally sway towards the latter in 2019. Widespread adoption of these two UX elements across iOS and Android will define this transition: Bottom Sheetsand Swipe Up gestures.


Its a known fact that users prefer using one thumb to get things done on mobile phones. Ubiquity of large screen devices and one handed usage makes bottom of the screen a prime real estate and appropriate for placing important buttons within reach.

Left: Side drawer against Bottom sheet, Right: Overflow menu against Bottom sheet

Bottom sheet: Designers now frequently prefer bottom sheet for sub-flows, and instead of other components such as overflow drop-downs, hamburger side-drawers and pop-up dialogues.


Bottom sheets are incredibly flexible as they facilitate vertical scroll for additional content and horizontal scroll (carousel) for similar content, a case never possible previously without jumping screens. Hence, one can design end-to-end and seamless sub-flows using bottom sheet while keeping primary context as anchor in background.

Swipe Up gestures: The swipe up gestures for closing an app, going back and opening app drawer have replaced the home button/bottom tab bar in recent times. This makes room for using bottom navigation in apps.


Having two clear sections: content (top area) and navigation (bottom area)as a practice across popular apps will standardise flows and lower the cognitive load while increasing affordance for users. Both, Material and HIG have included guidelines for bottom navigation in recent updates.

2. Interplay of Voice and Visual interfaces

Voice interfaces (VUI) is the next big thing in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). While visual and voice interfaces have largely remained independent entities till now, 2019 will see seamless integration of both and adoption at scale.

We might or might not have the mic button on visual UIs. While using an app, just speak when you feel like and the app will interpret it in context. It is going to be transparent.

Driving a car, answer a call by just saying “pick it up”, read a notification by saying “read it for me”. Want to listen to a book while reading it, say “narrate this chapter ”, or maybe “highlight last sentence” or “what does that mean”. Don’t want to sort a lengthy scroll on a small screen, say “show me cheapest option and the fastest option” or skip the whole flow by saying “find the cheapest option and book it using my Amex”. When chatting, say “send uhhhhh”, or “share live location for 30 mins”, easy!

Look forward exciting products in this space, specially with localisation also coming into the picture.

Mic UI in Google search, Whatsapp and Prime music

3. Vernacular is not only for content

As the world turns to Next Billion Users, localisation will mean more than just content. It will include copy, iconography, colors, UI metaphors, and UX flows and features.

For example, for vernacular user base FB has english UI but juxtaposes local copy for “What’s on your mind”, PayTm provides localised UI for each language, and Sharechat hides a feature (adult content) for certain languages. Google Tez (now Google Pay) was fundamentally built for local users and focussed on building Digital Trust using explicit messaging, simple flows and minimal features.

In one of the recent user studies in a tier 3 city in Tamil Nadu, our users preferred local metaphors like namaste, garland etc instead of “like” for appreciating something. Imagine it from one user’s perspective. Unlike many, she is new to internet. Her perception is restricted to her context (local) and learning curve (for english) is high for her. She will not be able to use a product unless its tailored for her.

There are many examples of how apps are increasingly accommodating multiple languages in products. Vernacular targeting will require designs to factor in this variable, whether at content level, or UI, or UX, or at product level is dependent on the case.

Screengrabs of Google Pay in Gujarati, Sharechat in Punjabi and PayTM in Hindi

4. Design Systems

Two main design systems: Material on android and Human Interface Guidelines on iOS are widely incorporated in apps. These systems provide guidelines for commonly used components such as headers, cards, bottom sheets et. al. Code libraries of these components are also easily available. Additionally, users are also used to these components and layouts.

In effect, default design systems ensure performance and affordance.

However, customisation of these design systems are on the rise. While popular apps like Whatsapp, FB, Twitter prefer nativity with minor customisations, many apps such as UberAirbnbIBM, Snapchat, iOS Music have taken a more liberal approach. Uber’s bottom sheet in fact was an influential success. Accordingly, Material and iOS have also updated their systems to be more flexible instead of being prescriptive.

Even amongst smaller startups, design systems are becoming a norm as it complements the contemporary org structure with a centralised design infra team and a pod based product-design resource allocation.

2019 will see:

  1. Larger adoption of design systems amongst companies.
  2. Liberal customisation of design systems as companies target new geographies where users have less exposure to default systems.