Three Key Lessons About Mobile User Experience Design Cal

From the awesome apps that have won my loyalty

I aim to be a minimalist.

That doesn’t mean I succeed — due to my cluttered collections of doodles, old stamps and dusty paintings I hold onto over the years. I like the idea of living with less or living simply but stuff (especially the kind that makes you get all nostalgic when you’re supposed to be cleaning up your house) can be hard to let go of.

But when it comes to my phone, I am much more disciplined.

Over the years, I’ve culled down my selection of apps to a few that I used almost daily.

  • Yelp
  • OneBusAway

Here’s what we can learn from their success with at least one user from adoption to engagement over the years.


If there’s anything that makes me a devoted fan, it’s how it can help me make create and check off a task list with elegance, simplicity and lightning speed. I like lists, I am an avid consumer of sticky notes (both the physical and digital version) but have moved onto saving my lists on my phone for the sake of mobility. makes a list without any additional clutter on a beautifully plain interface that satisfies my minimalist design side as well as the organized nitpicky side that enjoys making and checking off lists.

This app is a true winner of optimizing functionality and simplicity for the user in the years that I have used it.



When I open Yelp there are a few high level thoughts on my mind:

What do I want to eat?

What is nearby?

How to I get there?

And Yelp is able to answer these questions accurately for the majority of the time. I appreciate their search incorporates filters like distance, hours, ratings and price points.

It’s an app I keep returning to because it is able to provide the much needed service for looking for my next meal whether locally or while traveling.



Search is one of the most important aspects to get right on mobile applications. Optimizing the query results to be accurate and relevant ought to be a top priority for applications to retain their users.

With the limited screen real estate of a phone, a user will only browse so much before they turn to the search experience to help find the information they are looking for.

However, in some cases it is better to provide a series of alternative options for the user depending on their context of use.

OneBusAway is an application that provides alternatives for commuters trying to catch a bus. Nothing is quite like the experience of frustrations for the modern day commuter missing his or her bus by a minute, left standing at the bus stop amid a cloud of smoky pollution.

The biggest opportunity that OneBusAway took was filling the gap between missing a bus and the decision for what to do next. The app is for those who are relatively familiar with busing but have to deal with fluctuating approximate arrival and departure time of their transportation options. However if their preferred bus leaves without them, they have the option of looking up other arriving buses and making an alternate route.

Learn more with my latest books on user experience and design thinking, now available on Amazon.

Find out how to design mobile app icons with my latest online course — on sale and 50% off with limited coupon codes.

Author: Joanna Ngai

Collect by: