Design and functionality of an app – Do they go hand in hand?

What should you prioritize aesthetics, functionality, user experience? Find out how design and functionality of an app should mesh.

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The mobile application landscape is highly competitive. With millions of apps available on iOS and Android Play Store for download; there’s likely a mobile app for just about everything.

That also means that there’s probably an app or two already competing to attract the attention of the same audience as you. Thus, you need to be on your toes in the app market and be vigilant of the functionality and design features that you include in the app.

The debate on design vs. functionality in application development is important and needs much discussion.

It seems logical that an app needs to be visually impressive without jeopardizing its functionality. If your app looks impressive with killer graphics and high-resolution images but is tricky to navigate, users will abandon it and look out for an alternative app.

Obviously, this defeats the purpose of having a mobile app that promotes your business and increases your sales.

App developers must be careful when deciding which features to include because superfluous design features may slow down the app performance. While an app that is easy on the eye leaves a lasting first impression, it may not always enhance the user experience.

While it’s easy to get carried away with designmake sure it does not come at the price of the app’s functionality.

Below we take a closer look at the design and usability of mobile app and how they relate in app development.

Functionality breeds loyalty:

The functionality of an app is a major factor that enables users to form a distinct opinion about the app. When a new user opens an app, he instantly forms an opinion about the visual appeal and ease of use. It takes less than ten seconds for an average app user to figure out how to use an app which plays a vital role in retention. Studies from TechCrunch suggests that average users spend around 85 percent of their time on native applications when using a smartphone. 84 percent of the smartphone time is devoted to just five apps. Most of these apps are related to gaming, social media and instant messaging.

An important criterion for customer retention is ease of use. Studies show that apps that are comfortable in the first ten minutes of use see the highest retention rate. Such apps go on to become the hot favorites of users and customers tend to return and use the app again in the future. A mobile application’s functionality doesn’t just mean adding codes; it’s about finding errors and drawbacks in the app and coming up with a solution that portrays the features of the application.

Design seals the deal:

Design plays a primary part in influencing a user’s opinion about an app.

If you want new users to use your app or even buy your product or service, you need to understand the factors that inspire customers to make a decision.

A customer’s decision-making is a quick process that often lacks much consideration. A study revealed that customers make a decision on business in one-third of a second of their encounter. If you want the users to use your product or service, you need to focus on the entities that attract users’ attention, and a good design is one of them. Users may initially be drawn in and held by the functions of the app, but to close the deal, they often prefer a UI that they can’t imagine to swap out for a new app.

Since the nuance of design is still very much alive, you need innovative design and graphics to top the charts. A professional logo can help draw new customers and make them take interest in your app.

Design & functionality – apps where they converge:

It should be clear that functionality goes hand in hand with design and knowing your target audience.

For instance, if your app provides information and services to the older generation, it needs clear navigation, high clarity coupled with a logical layout and design that compliments the functionality of the app.

For such apps, you can’t treat design separately from the functionality. Both aesthetics and functionality should be treated as equals.

Here are a few tips you need to look into in order to convert first-time users into loyal consumers.

  • Faster loading time that doesn’t frustrate users
  • Highly quality and highly visible images related to your app’s core offerings
  • Clear and appropriate text with the right font and color
  • A well-organized and intuitive layout that makes the app navigation easy and smooth
  • A clear call to action buttons displayed in visible places in the app
  • Each element, button, and link on the app is responsive and serves its purpose

Design & functionality – apps where one takes precedence over the other:

While it is evident that the two goes hand in hand, there are cases where one may take precedence over the other.

News and publications apps like the CNN and New York Times can afford to prioritize functionality over design. While apps in the photography, fashion, film and other creative industries may focus more on the app design and may not treat functionality at par with design. For such apps, the developers will presume the audience capable of exploring an app with a keen eye and familiarizing themselves with the app style.

The ‘Design vs. Functionality’ verdict:

High functional capabilities, intuitive design and graphics parameters are the key to an ideal app.

Design is pivotal to attract customers and create a positive and lasting first impression. But functionality is not a place to cut corners if you want to convert a first-time user into a loyal customer.

When talking about the design and functionality debate, Ferdinand Porsche aptly says,

“Design must be functional, and functionality must be translated into visual aesthetics.”


While this is a topic with variable opinions, understanding your target audience seems the only constant here.