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Mobile apps – Quality not quantity

You will find numerous well-designed, functional mobile apps for iPhones and iPads, smartphones and tablets reviewed in this category of Red Dot 21. They include a number of apps that stand out from the mass of mobile applications for their exceptionally good user interface design. Since Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, special apps for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and wearables abound. Towards the end of 2016, the number of apps offered via the Google Play store topped 2.5 million. In Apple’s app store they came to roughly 2.2 million. The range of free and chargeable apps (application software) is huge. There are apps for widely differing areas such as productivity, banking, communications, social media, shopping, news and magazines, music and video streaming, health and fitness, leisure and travel planning, education, games etc.; and they all claim to make users’ lives easier or more enjoyable. It’s virtually impossible to maintain an overview of what’s going on. Users rely on recommendations, reviews and rankings or look for apps by specific companies, media or providers they already know. But there is another way to find the real gems of the mobile app sector: by looking at the results of the Red Dot Award: Communication Design featured in this category. Every year in summer, design experts from around the world gather in Essen to pick out the best projects from a flood of submissions for the communication design class.

App design: How can you tell a well-designed app?

In the “Apps” category on Red Dot 21, you will find mobile applications that stand out because of their exceptionally good design and high user friendliness. Although not all the apps we’ve included have been awarded a Red Dot, they all fulfil the highest UI design requirements. When the Red Dot Award jurors evaluate all the entries in this category, they do more than just give them a casual once over. They whip out their smartphones and tablets then click, swipe, scroll, look, test and debate. Perhaps the most important quality criterion in this area is a user-centred design. In other words, during the development and design phase of the app, the focus is on the end-user. For whom, for which target group is the app intended? In which situation will users generally call up the app? Could it be en route to somewhere in order quickly to check the timetable? In that case, it is vital that the app offers them easy access to the content without a lot of navigation steps. Or are users likely to use an app when they have a little more time, as is the case when playing a game? That would make multi-dimensional interactions and even an experimental approach possible. Whatever the scenario, menu prompts should be self-explanatory, so that users can find their way around quickly and intuitively thanks to a carefully thought-out graphic user interface.

The challenge faced by app designers at times consists in abandoning well-trodden, tried and tested paths, and instead heading off in a new direction in order to optimise the user experience and surprise and delight him by making life a little easier. Other aspects such as the choice of typography, photos, graphics and illustrations, the use of white spaces, colours, contrasts and sound design also have an important role to play in app design – both from an aesthetic and a functional perspective. In the end, the aim of good app design should always be to achieve a harmonious interplay of technology, content and aesthetics. In our image gallery, you will find many successful examples of innovative and helpful smartphone apps and tablet apps. By clicking on an image you will be transferred to a sub-category with detailed information on the project, the designer and the company that commissioned the project. Applications that have already received an award from the jurors of the Red Dot Design Award are recognisable by the Red Dot logo. We hope you will enjoy discovering what this category has to offer.