Beautiful Applications – the future of mobile app design

Posted on April 18, 2012


Matt Gemmell has written a very interesting piece on his blog about interaction design and Augmented Paper.

He gives a very interesting overview from a design point of view of iOS, Android and Windows Phone’s Metro interface. Here are the highlights:


iOS provides hand-sized (or magazine-sized) experiences, designed to comfort you as much as possible, and to coax you into transplanting your natural affinity and affection for physical interfaces, onto your iPhone or iPad.

Windows Phone Metro

Metro is the pinnacle of information asceticism. Windows Phone is a, well, window onto an information space…. It’s almost perfectly digital, and is focused on information and content above all.


It’s more of a desktop UI in overall aesthetic, with necessary adaptions for touch-screen and mobile-sized devices… It feels like Android has never drifted particularly far from the UI themes we’ve used for years on our Nokias and Sony Ericssons and Motorolas, which have now likely been consigned to the museum of history.

There are two very different design paradigms from Apple and Microsoft, with a third concept from Android. Gemmell’s take on Android as a desktop-on-a-touch device is very interesting, and is a departure from Apple and Microsoft’s attempts to provide a very distinct mobile experience from their desktop offerings.

Maybe this is due to Google’s history of not having a desktop operating system. Their background is, after all, in creating a web operating system.

Invisible Interfaces

Gemmell also writes at length about the pros and cons of invisible interfaces, where navigation and control is through gestures. He discusses the Clear application, which is a to-do list manager:

The deeper issue is that it eschews controls on principle and as a primary design goal, rather than based on what’s best for the user. I’ve had several conversations about Clear, and in every case someone has mentioned that they don’t find it discoverable, or that they make errors when performing pinching gestures, or some other frustrating thing.

One guiding principal we use at Digital Possibilities is that good design requires very little user coaching. Good design, whether through the use of gestures or on-screen icons, should be natural and logical, without the need for additional help. Apple’s iPhoto app is an example of one with both on-screen icons and hidden gestures, but this app is badly designed as it requires a lot of user guidance to get started.

Gemmell has a really strong point that well designed applications have a well designed experience :

Apps are only incidentally software; software is an implementation detail. Instead, apps are experiences…. Design an experience. Make it as beautiful – and as emotionally resonant – as it can possibly be.

This really hits the nail on the head. The whole use of an application is an experience: a good, indifferent or a bad one. A good experience doesn’t need to be showy; an application is not enhanced by candy, an application is enhanced by delivering a beautiful experience.

In the case of enterprise mobile applications, if your application is a beautiful experience, that enhances your overall brand and product image.

At Digital Possibilities, we work tirelessly to produce beautiful experiences in beautiful mobile applications.

I’d really recommend that you check out Matt’s work and learn more about his Augmented Paper concept at: