7 Tips to Brand Your Mobile App

People often misunderstand branding. They simplify it to be nothing more than a logo and a color scheme. Although those factors are significant, branding entails much more. Logos are a single, visual representation of your product and its values. Without any sense or story behind what it represents, a logo has very little significance to a person.

A brand combines your purpose and vision into a visual identity that motivates users to take action. It's a way to set yourself apart from the competition by stating exactly what you have to give that makes you the better option. Branding is critical because it not only creates a lasting impression on customers but also informs them of what to expect from your company.

App developers don't always recognize the importance of building a brand when it comes to the success of an app. Mobile app branding often gets overlooked or rushed during app development. To create a compelling mobile app, you need to realize that you're providing something more important than a digital product. You're providing an experience. One that encompasses not only how your product looks but how it functions and makes users feel. 

According to Statista, as of Q2 of 2022, Google Play Market had 3.5 million apps and Apple's App Store had 2.2 million. That's a lot of apps. 😳 To compete in a crowded marketplace, your mobile app needs to be high quality and well-branded. Here are some things to keep in mind to help get you started

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Judge a Book By Its Cover

Studies show that people spend approximately 7 seconds before deciding to use an app. And around 77% of users will abandon an app within the first three days of downloading it. So while the age-old adage tells us not to judge a book by its cover, that's what users do. Making a good first impression is crucial to the success of your mobile app. 

Having a well-designed and user-friendly app is half the battle when it comes to user acquisition and retention. But what other factors come into play when it comes to attracting new users?

App Store screenshots optimized to convey core benefits within the first 3 screens

  • App Store Screenshots – App store screenshots often get overlooked. They get relegated to those last few moments before launch. With seconds to capture a users' interest, these screenshots can significantly impact app downloads. Spend more time considering and designing these out to ensure you capture the core benefit of your app within the first 2-3 screens.
  • Optimize Your Product Description – Product description helps improve the ranking of your app in the App Stores. It's a process known as App Store Optimization (ASO). Long descriptions loaded with keywords are great for optimization. But it would help if you also optimized your text length to ensure the purpose of your app is clear up front and to avoid having truncated text on search pages. 
  • Onboard Users Properly – Facebook's Design Director, Julie Zhuo, says, "No one cares about the thing you've designed until they get past the beginning." Translation: take the time to onboard your users efficiently and adequately. The easiest way to introduce new users to an application is through onboarding. You can teach users how the app works, its features and ultimately how it will benefit them. Do your homework and determine the best design pattern that works for your app. But whatever you do and don't underestimate the value of a well-thought-through onboarding experience. 
"No one cares about the thing you've designed until they get past the beginning."

Develop a Responsive Logo 

A responsive logo utilizes design elements that change in size and complexity to accommodate different devices and screen sizes where they may appear. Similar to how responsive web design rearranges design elements to fit varying screen sizes, responsive logos do the same. Despite traditional mental models centered around never changing your brand identity, responsive logos have become a best practice in the digital space. 

Responsive logo concept for Guinness that displays how the logo scales to accommodate smaller screen sizes
Responsive logo concept for Guinness by Joe Harrison

Why have they become so popular? They address a common challenge that brands face: delivering a consistent brand experience across all mediums and platforms. By accommodating for both large and small-scale usage, you'll be able to maintain legibility, clarity and ultimately brand recognition. Even the smallest design element like an app icon favicon increases brand visibility with your user base.

Various app icon designs that combine brand personality with app funcionality.
The Evernote app icon is simple & modern. It reinforces the brand mission through its use of an elephant, an animal with an incredible memory. The 1Password app icon immediately communicates app functionality through its design. Miximal combines its brand personality with its app's core concept, which allows users to mix and match animal parts.

App Icons

Speaking of app icons – your logo and app icon are NOT the same things! Your logo visually represents your business or company as a whole. An app icon represents your individual application.

Your app icon shouldn't be used on its own to represent your brand. It should help describe the purpose of your app and its main features while being visually consistent with your app design. It's common to see elements of a logo used as or within an app icon, but that doesn't mean they're interchangeable. A logo and an app icon have two different goals and your design approach should be reflective of that.

There aren’t specific requirements other than submission size for your app icon. But both Apple and Google provide best practices on designing an app icon that immediately captures attention and clearly identifies your app.

Less is More (MVP)

If you keep up with our blog, you'll know we're big supporters of the MVP or Minimum Viable Product. You can read more about that here. But to keep things short and sweet, less is more, particularly for new apps without an existing user base. We get it. The temptation to launch an app with every bell and whistle under the sun can be hard to resist. But you need to walk before you can run and doing too much at once can be more harmful than helpful. Implementing too many features can lead to choice overload. Overwhelming visuals can cause cognitive overload.

When designing a digital product I'm always reminded of Gall's Law. John Gall was a pediatrician who researched the behavioral and developmental problems of children. Through his studies, he developed a rule of thumb for systems design

Gall's Law states that all complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. If you want to build a complex system that works, build a simpler system first, and then improve it over time.

Start at a small scale and keep things simple. Focus on a simpler experience that is user-centric and engaging. Speaking of user-centric...

User-Centric Design

Your brand identity influences almost every product decision you'll make. A well-branded app doesn't stop at just using your logo and color. You should impart your brand throughout the whole user experience, from copywriting to functionality. However, balancing what YOU want to make versus what your users need is where many products can get into trouble.

Take a user-centered design approach to keep your consumers in mind every step of the way. It helps to define user types and create personas. These ensure that your decision-making is done through the lens of your end-user. Be cautious if you fall into the demographic of your user base. It can become easy to assume you have all the answers, but it can also be hard to separate yourself from your brand. Rely on methodologies like user surveys, hallway testing or your network of peers to get honest user-centered feedback.

As a brand, you'll have strong opinions about what should and shouldn't be part of your branded mobile app experience. But the customer is always king.

Sell your brand - not just your product

An exclusively product-centered approach to marketing isn't always the most effective one. You have a split second to get the customer's attention, impress them and then make them believe in you. If your brand doesn't excite an audience, it won't matter how advanced your technology is. You need to sell your brand.

It's challenging to create and retain a solid, loyal user base without demonstrating the advantages of patronizing your brand. When considering marketing efforts, try shifting your focus from what your product does to what your brand can do for your customer. If you can prove that your app can make their lives easier or better in some way, you begin to develop an emotional connection with them. It's these emotional bonds that will convert into a stronger and more engaged user base. 

Illustration of the 12 Brand Archetypes
The 12 Brand Archetypes are used to strengthen a brand's story. They represent attributes like values, behaviors and messages into a persona, helping to make a brand feel more human — illustrations by Barbara Janczak.

Don't forget about your personality

Brand personality refers to the human characteristics that we attribute to a brand. A mobile app can express personality through visual design, photography, copywriting, auditory cues, micro-animations, etc. When developing products, many people make the mistake of editing the character out of their user experience. They focus on the technical aspects of mobile app development and overlook the opportunities to inject personality into their product.

Why would personality matter in mobile app design?

Have you ever met someone with no personality that you liked? Yes, we're talking about product design and not people, but the concept is transferable. As consumers, we have automatic reactions to brands the same way we have gut reactions about people. According to Harvard Business School, 95% of purchasing decisions are based on feelings instead of logic.

Consumers gravitate to the products and brands that appeal to their subconscious. So brands that appeal to users' emotions (their gut feelings) tend to perform better than those that lack personality. It's not enough to have just a great product or service. You need a fantastic brand personality to go with it.

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Mobile app branding is an ongoing process that doesn't stop once you launch your app. It's something that you should consider through the entire lifecycle of your digital product. Your brand should be reflected in every detail of your product from your logo and color palette down to the smallest of icons. It's essential to take the time to work through these decisions and continuously maintain them as you iterate on your mobile app.

This list should help you get started with the process, but our team of experts is always on standby. Get in touch if you need help with your mobile app branding! 😊 

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