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In: Web Design, Website Development

Apps are ever-changing, ever-evolving and increasingly indispensable in our day-to-day. Brainstorming and exploring app design ideas will help designers of any level keep up with what’s new, but it can still be difficult to decide on the best visual direction for beginner designers and experts alike.

Illustration by OrangeCrush

To highlight exciting new elements to adopt into your app design ideas and to help you envision the design style that is right for you, we’ve collected some inspirational app designs in popular categories. Let’s get started!

Key features in contemporary app design

According to Statistica, mobile apps will generate $935 billion by 2023. This means that we’re at a pretty perfect time to make that big app idea in your head become a reality. Before we leap into app design ideas by category, let’s check out some trends and features that you should be considering for any genre of app design in 2022.

1. The rise of video

During this time, app usage and download rates peaked significantly as video conferencing apps have become indispensable to work and socialization. The video-sharing app TikTok has quite literally taken over the planet with over 115.2 million installs by March 2020. Its ingeniously addictive combo of music with short-format videos enjoyed a ripple effect across social media, with competitor platforms scrabbling to encourage more video content from users.

2. Multi-sensory experiences

Creating an immersive, dynamic environment for users is now more prevalent in apps than ever. According to the 2021 Apple Design Awards, some of the best interactive apps were ones that masterfully used “gestures, haptics, parallax, and dynamic sound effects” to bring our screens alive, like the game Bird Alone.

bird alone game art
Bird Alone is an interactive game that explores friendship and life, via George Batchelor

3. Ever-expanding intuitive design

Chances are you’ve heard of responsive design. The dynamic changes that determine a website’s appearance depending on the size and orientation of the screen a user is viewing it on have become a necessity to any digital design.

According to data pulled by the digital consulting firm Perficient, “Globally, 68.1% of all website visits in 2020 came from mobile devices—an increase from 63.3% in 2019. Desktops drove 28.9% of visits, while 3.1% of visitors came from tablets.” Responsive design improves the intuivity and usability of a design. And taking this theme into 2022 is multi-directional navigation.

To avoid endless, absent-minded scrolling, multi-directional navigation invites users to consciously interact with the app when exploring multi-product galleries.

4. Accessibility features

Apps have specifically evolved in the past few years according to how all users will be consuming the designs. Making voice and motion control easier and more nuanced, adding options such as having all text read aloud, modifiable text and color contrast were a part of some of the recent best app design ideas, regardless of category. We will see how to make these features work for different categories when we take a look at the app design examples.

5. Innovating on depth

Giving depth to an app design mimics our 3D perception when staring at a screen. Animations, augmented reality and parallax scrolling are all examples of how to add depth to designs. For static background images, there are several visual techniques you can blend together to mimic 3D elements and create quite a beautiful, unique aesthetic.

tonal app design
Buttons, elements, and text are all overlaid in front of the background image of this design, by Red Flood.

We saw a lot of neumorphic content in app designs over the past few years. Come 2022 and we’re seeing designers bring dimension to device screens in new ways. Layering elements and experimenting with glow or drop shadows add depth to designs. While blur effects, overlays and strokes increase legibility.

Share features

Whether it is giving users the ability to share something about your app usage between you and specific other users or publicly on social media the sharing functionality is a must for many apps.  And this is no longer limited to apps belonging to a few categories. Including easy ways to share things such as photos, voice memos, your latest high score on your favorite game or an article you’ve read is a part of any great app design. Especially since it’s a great way to stay connected with people. It’s a functionality that helps us all feel a little more together while apart.

App design ideas by category

App designs for social media

It’s safe to say that social media has changed the way people in the world socialize. It made everyone feel near and accessible. It gave us tools to curate how others perceive us. Ever seen a toddler trying to swipe on a magazine page? I have and it was unsettling. But that is a clear indication of how swiping has become a gesture known to so many. Evolving with humans, social media is growing and changing.

For example, based on the popularity of TikTok, Instagram introduced Reels to stay relevant. Reels is a feature for users to create short videos with audio and effects, sound familiar? Adding music and other visual elements to videos became the bare minimum for social media apps, where consumption has shifted to shorter and more “fun” content that appeals to our ears, eyes and thoughts.

jingo app design
Connect through maps and activities, by 301 design
conclave app design
A design that allows you to think before sharing, by Si Thu A
deed app design
Sharing skills to build online communities, by Daga

Having said that, there’s also still a desire for simplicity. In the examples above, you should see some of everything, for instance, note how the design by Si Thu A brings back a blog-like look but in a package, which lets users create blogs together.

Finance and banking app designs

If we needed further evidence that going to the bank is a thing of the past, the past few years have clarified this for us. Because so much of this industry has moved to the digital realm, apps absolutely have to be mindful of all levels of user experience.

Finance companies need to be extra attentive to the level of trust that people need to ascertain from them during their digital operations. There’s an inherent fear in people when it comes to technology, which is why experiences with humans work better than chatbots. This also means that the whole experience of your finance app must be easy-to-use, professional, secure and glitch-free.

signup screen for marygold app
A visually striking approach that still manages to be sleek and simple, by Deseon
personal budgeting app dashboard
Elegant design with buttons that pop, by malzi.
fintech app design
A minimal and modern design that combines all the necessary features, by imfavourite

Finance apps often have an inherent set of graphics that are supposed to help users measure and track development and progress. In bad examples, this can be rather cryptic and inaccessible. In the examples above we see several different ways of using these elements to clearly represent financial data. Note how the data representations have a sharp and modern feel while maintaining legibility and ease of comprehension.

finance app for elderly
Accessible and minimal design that considers all users, by Alexandra Simona

This design from Alexandra Simona is an example of an app that was designed specifically for the elderly. A feature that stands out is the “easy read mode” through which users can easily switch to bigger or smaller fonts, while the rest of the design is full of clear language and universally known symbols that are linked to straightforward commands. Great design cannot survive without accessiblity, meaning this app design is a brilliant solution for beginners and expert users alike.

Transportation app designs

Travel has really changed over the past few years, and hopping on flights to go from country to country isn’t as simple as it once was. This refocused our attention on other modes of travel: domestic travel via train, boat or even car shares.

With an increase in demand for localized transportation, there comes a window of opportunity for app creators. Transportation app designs must present a lot of data-heavy info to users without losing them along the way.

rideshare app design
An app design that utilizes maps and icons creatively, by simadin

Location, direction, time taken to complete journey, price and comparisons between the different transportation methods are all things a transportation app needs to communicate to the user. So designers find opportunity in contrasting colors, depth and infographics when doing so accessibly and effectively.

car rental app
Modern car rental app design, by masiko
train app design
Clean design for a UK based train travel app, by gusnendar
taxi app sweden
This taxi app is designed with the elderly in mind, by kosta-xd

These app designs showcase just how important user interface design is to transportation apps. The design from kosta-xd, for example, uses bold text, contrasting colors and buttons that pop for ease of use and clarity for all ages. Railboard’s design, from top-level designer gusnendar, brilliantly uses arrows and vertical and horizontal alignments to convey the linear direction of distance and time.

App designs for health

The main function of health apps used to be “tracking” things such as symptoms and progress but this is no longer the case. Health apps have evolved to function in various, helpful ways. It’s now normal to see hospitals and insurers have their own healthcare apps, where you can book appointments, take a look at your charts, see test results and so on. There are apps that serve as a health concierge or even sugar intake trackers for those who live with diabetes.

mental health app design
A vibrant mental health tracking app design, by Emmanuel®

When designing your health app, clarity (both in text and graphics) and uncomplicated organization should be the two main starting points. Typography and color contrasts help everything be legible while remaining minimal.

symptom tracker app
Color contrast helps separate different items, by Seno Aji
meditation app
Beautiful meditation app design by heze
mental health meditation app
Scenic and minimal, this design feels like a breath of fresh air, by George Will

It’s also worth mentioning that in the two meditation app examples above, you will see that both use scenic images and illustrations to create a sense of depth that is calming and feels infinite. Needless to say, the minimal use of text and information goes perfectly with the vibe.

App designs for exercise and training

When gyms and workout spaces closed, exercise and training apps helped people stay healthy and active. These apps remain popular and their moment in the sun only made these apps better than before. It’s possible to pair up with other users and have virtual exercise buddies or to have a group in which you can view the live workout results of other members. Many exercise and training app designs now include more user-to-user or public sharing capabilities, interactive features, the ability to host live classes, and easy and accessible subscription features.

olympic lifting app
This design pairs inspirational videos with personal progress, by Kevin Olsson
kegel trainer app
Easy to use, simple and colorful design by Toi Li
golf measure app
Eye catching, clean and functional design by ozonestyle
last image leg day page
A sleek and comprehensive format that organizes the different categories well, by 7plus7

A good place to start when designing exercise or training apps is to gather inspiration on how to create progress bars, meters, pie charts and statistical representation. Tracking and charting progress motivates users and leads them to return to the app, again and again, to see how they improve.

Another important feature is to have clear CTAs and buttons to encourage explorations. Make it possible to click anything–on a teacher’s name to see more of their classes, on a workout genre that they are enjoying. The goal is to encourage users to spend more time on the app and be familiar with all of its offers. “Filter” is also a great feature to add on to searches in exercise apps since it gives people the option to find something that matches their time preferences and exercise levels.

App designs for time and space management

Working from home, working remotely, managing our own hours… These are all things that benefit from impeccable organization. Luckily, there are many apps that address just these needs. The best home, studio, self-management app designs are ones that are visually appealing. You want to encourage users to want to use the app rather than it become another chore.

organisational app featuring pastel gradient
Design by CalmSpark App Design

Most organizational app designs have softer color schemes and simple functions, to make these apps familiar. They are visually stunning and provide helpful, gentle and—above all—positive ways to support us in our day-to-day.

Central heating app design
Design by ozonestyle
Organisational app design
Design by masiko

App designs for gaming and recreation

The gaming market for mobiles will make $102.8 billion by 2023. This is a $26 billion increase from 2020. If you’re dreaming about launching a game of your own, now is the time to put things into motion.

Gaming apps tend to feature brightly colored, eye-catching graphics, realistic or fantastical player characters and a whole lot of world-building. The idea is to immerse the users into the game world through design.

You can always go against the grain, however, like this intentionally minimal app design from Typelab D. It doesn’t give much away about what the game entails, but captures the mood of feeling unknown or a “stranger” to someone.

social game app
A text focused design can still be visually engaging, by Typelab D

Like any other branded design, it’s important to understand the tastes, needs and values of your audience to create a successful, unique game. Is your app design going to be an entirely new world of fantasy for users to explore and survive in? Is it a digital spin on a classic puzzle that fans can immerse themselves for hours in?

word search game
The scrabble board look and feel comes through, by iGreg
word search game
Futuristic and cinematic design, by boorykin
dinner table game app design
Illustration forward and elegant design by ozonestyle
turf game app
Design for a location based mobile game, by freaky

Another interesting example is the design for the game “Turf”, by designer freaky.. Turf uses GPS technology to sync your game location with your real-world location. The aim of the game is to utilize “zones”, areas you can physically go to and compete with other users to play with your own. The app design reflects what the game is trying to achieve by placing the focus on a terrain-mode map–you are a player icon standing on a game board.

App design for food, grocery and parcel delivery

Delivery apps fulfill a function that seems simple but actually holds lots of complex details with product listings, multi-product galleries and payment navigation. If it’s a food delivery app, it will include item descriptions, add-on options, a cart feature. Then there will be a payment section and you’ll be matched with a driver and given a time estimate.

food delivery app
Informative and transparent design, by gusnendar
courier app
Complex features simplified with typography and tones, by heze
grocery list delivery app
An app design that improves the shopping experience, by hzkdesign
pickles app design
A very appetizing approach to a food delivery app, by Typelab D

Overall the illusion of simplicity comes from the linearity of the user experience. One by one, we add, remove, checkout, wait. Successful food delivery app designs are ones that have all that you need, where you need it—they’re intuitive, logical and present information in bite-size chunks.

Skill-building and educational app designs

There’s often crossover with skill-building and learning app designs, and gaming apps. The former often invokes simplistic gaming techniques and challenges to interact with and entertain users. Take this design by Typelab D.

attachment 73315955 e1645449589102

Notice how it peppers high-quality imagery with a muted palette? Its sophistication feels almost editorial and the designer creates a calming balance, despite there being multiple features on this display.

On the other hand, many designs for learning apps tend to be colorful and visually engaging, with illustrated characters, sounds and animations that give you gold prizes when you deserve them. The sense of reward keeps users motivated, engaged and wanting to learn more.

learning app
Football game concept in an educational app, by Semas Studio
audio reader app for kids
Really fun and easy to use design for a children’s audiobook app, by Stefano Okti

One great example is by Stefano Okti, the kids audiobook app. The large microphone button on any of the selected books’ page helps users record without a fuss. Similarly, the buttons for all the other necessary commands are clearly presented on the same page with the use of universally known symbols such as play, delete, fast-forward and rewind. The CTAs are also wonderfully direct and easy-going: “retake”, “yes, please!”, “next book”. The language and the design keep things simple and playful without making anything particularly childish.

Feeling inspired?

Now that you’ve looked over our collection of great app design ideas from some of the major app categories on the market, you should have a better idea of where you fit in and which visual direction you’d like to go in. If you feel unsure and need more inspiration, go ahead and browse the portfolios of our best app designers!

Dreaming up ideas for your next app-venture?
Our talented designers can bring your imagination to life.

This article was originally published in 2018. It has been updated with new examples and information.