The world is going mobile, and regular users rarely rely on desktop apps to conduct simple operations. Still, it’s impossible to say that the time of desktop apps is gone. Desktop versions are always more feature-rich; they work quickly and offer a better UX than lighter, simpler mobile versions. Besides, desktop apps are still the golden standard of corporate software use.
If you’re planning to launch a large-scale business venture, especially with a B2B business model, you definitely need a desktop app. Here is a detailed guide on how to design a startup product with a desktop app version included. Don’t miss it out, as desktop design advice is a rare gem today, with the whole business focused too much on the mobile segment.
Essentials of Proper Desktop App Design
What should your desktop app possess to beat the competitors and remain popular? We recommend focusing on the following usability aspects.
It’s very tempting to squeeze a whole lot of additional features into a desktop version of the app. It’s natural to focus on the mandatory minimum when creating mobile apps so that all actions are a couple of clicks away. But with desktop apps, developers often forget about usability in an effort to deliver maximum value to the users.
In fact, the principles of minimalistic design work perfectly with desktop apps as well. The users may be too overwhelmed by a range of features and settings, losing their way and giving up halfway through the lengthy onboarding process. Sure, it’s not always the case, as high-end professional software can’t help being complex. But with regular software for laypersons, you need to keep the set of features digestible.
2 User Psychology
A rule of thumb, even in the most innovative app design, is to deliver a familiar experience to users. This means that designers need to consider app design standards and commonplace conventions when building new products. Users rely on their mental models and patterns, looking for specific tabs and menu options in specific places. If the design principles are ruined, users may get confused, abandoning the product or finding it much more complex in use.
You don’t want either of these outcomes, right?
So, it’s better to rely on the existing standards and add a couple of creative twists to them. This way, you will ensure that your app is unique but not totally strange to the newcomers.
To understand app design standards in your industry, you can do some user research and analyze the existing apps. Look at what they have in common, how people use the existing resources, and what design complexities there are.
3 Visual Clarity
A rule of thumb is to make all vital elements easily identifiable in the design. For example, your menu should be placed in the top section of the website, allowing users to check the available functions in one place without scrolling to the bottom. There should be no visual clutter in the app’s design, giving users a clear idea of where the core functions are and how they can use them.
4 Icons and Controls
When it comes to mobile design, UI experts often opt for tooltips—self-explanatory icons with no text. The look of tooltips should suggest the action that will follow tapping on that icon. However, you don’t need to resort to this option when designing for a desktop.
There is much more visual space on the desktop page, and many more controls are typically placed in the app’s navigation panel. Thus, a user should not rely on their memory or do the guesswork when using the app’ icons should be clearly labeled, providing the users with simple prompts for in-app operation.
Consistency is key in any design, and this is especially true for desktop app development. A desktop app should be consistent in style, functionality, color, and visual design with the company’s mobile app, website, and any other channel for interaction with the users. The effect can be amplified by aligning the design with the brand’s color and style, thus giving any user a seamless, continuous experience across all channels.
5 The Right for a Mistake
The “undo” feature is a vital component of a functional app design. It increases user productivity by allowing to correct minor mistakes and wrong steps on the way to a final goal. Besides, knowing that they can always take one step back, people feel much safer. The industry standard is a combination of Ctrl+Z controls, allowing users to abort the latest action without losing all their content. A very reassuring feature, isn’t it?
6 Grid Design
When you design a desktop app, you can play with the opportunities that grid design enables. That’s what you can’t do on a mobile phone, with mobile apps following a one-grid format. But with large screen size, content can be comfortably divided into columns (grids) considering the breakpoint range of every screen.
That’s a broad field for experimentation and creativity. Use the added space to make the app’s visual structure more nuanced and appealing. But don’t go too far; complex visual design may be hard for human comprehension.
7 Longer User Sessions
Research suggests that users stay logged in the desktop apps for longer hours than they do on their smartphones. So, the app’s design should be optimized for longer use. For example, you need to use less intense colors to avoid eye strain or make the interactive work more physically comfortable.
8 Responsive Design
Though we’re talking about desktop design here, it’s vital to consider a broader picture. All users are dynamic today, and they often use multiple versions of the same app on various devices. They may work in the full-scale desktop app during their office hours and just check-in for updates on the go via smartphones. So, you need to design a desktop app with its lightweight mobile version in mind, allowing seamless synchronization and the ability to switch between versions.