As 2018 gets underway, the tech landscape is already remarkably different from just a  few years ago. Mobile is ‘large and in charge’ now, as the following mobile design trends will confirm.

A study from IDC estimates that more than two billion of the 3.2 billion people on the planet who access the web in 2016 will do so from a mobile device. Mobile design hasn’t just caught up with desktop—it’s crushing desktop in terms of sheer user numbers.

With mobile and user experiences being front and center more than ever, designers are looking to perfect their mobile-design skills for clients. By studying app design trends, they can be inspired by the best UI design ideas, and then create their own innovative and upgraded versions.

When it comes to mobile UX and UI design, they have to prioritize the user experience,.Designing native mobile apps that offer a richer experience than mobile web apps is the way to go. While there’s our list of the best mobile app design trend blogs to help you with some mobile design inspiration, native mobile app design is a constantly evolving thing, which is why future-proofing any piece of code is so important.

With that in mind, here are the 10 hottest mobile app design trends in 2018 that we predict.

1) Both Native Mobile Apps and Web Apps Will Surge

For some time, there’s been a dispute over what type of mobile app works best: native mobile apps that you open by tapping on your smartphone’s home screen or mobile web apps that you access from mobile versions of browsers like Safari.

app design trends

Designers and developers in the question of native vs. web app would argue that native mobile apps are superior because they’re faster for users, can be monetized in places like the App Store, and offer users access to mobile operating system features like the camera, contact lists, etc. That’s definitely true!

However, recent research by Google’s product director, Luke Wroblewski, indicates that there’s great demand for both types of mobile application designs, in spite of the apparent limitations of web apps. According to his data, native mobile app users spend 18 times longer on native apps than on mobile web apps…yet to add fuel to the native vs. web app fire, mobile web apps see almost 9 million monthly visitors compared to native apps’ 3.3 million monthly visitors.

Average monthly minutes per visitor of native apps compared to mobile web apps.

Therefore, mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, so developers will have to continue serving that market with mobile web apps, too, while continuing to prioritize mobile native apps that have a better UX.

Therefore, mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, so developers will have to continue researching UI design ideas and serving that market with mobile web apps, too, while continuing to prioritize native mobile apps that have a better UX.

2) The Increasing Influence of Wearables in App Interface Design

Wearables are gadgets like the Apple Watch, and they take the concept of mobile application design and development to a whole new dimension. Gartner predicted at that start of last year that the 2017 wearables market would rise to 310.4 million units sold, which is a 16.7 percent increase from 2015 sales.

app design trends 2018 - Apple Watch

So how does this affect UI design ideas? Not only is the screen smaller than a traditional mobile device, but wearables also encourage people to use mobile technology in different scenarios than smartphones and tablets, leading to necessary changes in the touch screen interface design.

For instance, the way you’d tap the screen of a smartphone to open a native news app is different to how you’d have to reach over with one hand to touch your Apple Watch to use its features.

Here’s a video to better illustrate how the Apple Watch works.

app design trends 2018 - Apple Watch Apps

As a result, 2018 will see wearable designers and developers race to create intelligent, user-friendly native and web apps that are unique to this type of mobile device, especially by adjusting their touch screen interface design.

3) Better UI Design Ideas for Gestures

What’s a gesture? In mobile application design, it’s divided into two groups, according to Google:

  • Touch mechanics (what your fingers do on a screen)
  • Touch activities (what they accomplish, as a result)

Double-Touch Drag

For example, if a user taps on their iPhone’s native mobile mail icon, they’ve produced a touch mechanic, that in turn creates the ensuing touch activity, which is their inbox opening.

With projections of smartphone users at more than 6 billion globally by 2020, it’s high time that designers explore new UI design ideas to better accommodate a range of mobile gestures.

Touch screen interface design mechanics include:

  • Touch (tap)
  • Force Touch
  • Double touch
  • Drag, swipe or fling
  • Long press
  • Long-press drag
  • Double-touch drag
  • Pinch open
  • Pinch closed
  • Two-finger touch
  • Two-finger drag, swipe or fling
  • long press with two fingers
  • Two-finger long-press drag
  • Two-finger double touch
  • Rotate

Some native mobile apps, such as Starbucks’ use an unappealing mobile UI design that makes, for instance, validating a free drink reward more cumbersome than it should be. If you have a free drink, you have to actually shake the phone by using your entire hand to get the barcode to appear on the screen for it to be validated.

app design trends 2018 - Starbucks App

It’d be much better to integrate a different touch screen interface design that allows the user to simply tap or swipe to get the barcode to appear.

With the number of mobile devices ever-increasing, mobile application designers have no choice but to create a better mobile UI design that uses a wider, more intuitive range of gestures for a better UX.

4) Multi-app Split Screen Catches on in Android UI Design

Multitasking or task switching is ubiquitous in our always-on world, so why shouldn’t this be the case in our mobile world? The multi-app is split-screen work flow that allows users to do two things at once on their screen, That means you can be on on your Evernote native mobile app and email colleagues at the same time or be tweeting and looking something up on the Internet simultaneously. The convenience of this UI design idea is beyond amazing, as it saves users the time and trouble of tapping the home button, looking for the native mobile app they want, and then constantly switching between two (or more) open app windows.

app design trends 2018 - iPad Pro

With the iPad Pro outselling Microsoft’s Surface tablet and similar offerings from Samsung in the last quarter, it’s clear that impressive mobile UI design features such as split-screen capability have made all the difference for consumers.

With Android fans clamoring for, and wondering when Google’s finally going to introduce the mobile split-screen feature on its devices, the time seems right for designers and developers to focus their efforts on finally producing split-screen multitasking for Android.

app design trends - Android Split Screen

Google seems to already be making baby steps toward this Android application development innovation right now, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with later this year.

5) Material Design Captivates the Mobile Application Design Community

Unsurprisingly, Google will be a big player in influencing native mobile app design trends this year. Material design is not completely flat anymore because it uses techniques like gradients, shadows and other subtle, 3D effects. As a result, this slightly different approach to native mobile design has people excited because it’ll drastically improve the UX on mobile devices.

Material Design UI - Mobile Design Trends 2016

Though material design was slow to be adopted to various Android apps last year— we’re talking Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps—that’s changing in 2016, as more native mobile apps from companies outside of Google take note of this app design trend and join the material-design bandwagon.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.04.10 PM

Facebook’s popular Messenger app is getting a material-design makeover on Android while IMDB’s Android app has material-design touches added to its navigation, search and action bar.

Beyond mobile application design, Google’s Chrome browser is also set to incorporate material-design touches in its interface, and Google is all set to unveil its new material design-influenced Chrome browser soon.

Look for more popular apps to follow this app design trend and adopt material design as the year progresses.

6) Moving Animation in Native Mobile Apps

People are naturally programmed to take notice of movement, so incorporating movement into a mobile UI and UX design can be the perfect way to highlight a specific product. This app design trend makes moving animation a superb tool for e-commerce sites. This also has a secondary, more useful purpose: Letting users move products around on the screen before they buy it makes it easy for them to inspect it from all sides…almost as if they were in a real, tactile store.

app design trends 2018 - Moving Animation on Smartphone

With Web Designer Depot proclaiming that “animation is no longer a novelty for web app designers…it’s becoming the basis of effective interaction design,” moving animation is set to take off in a large way this year as designers increasingly realize that movement helps tell a story, and that helps the UX.

app design trends 2018 - Bugaboo Mobile Site Urban Stroller Product Page

Bugaboo’s mobile site features moving animation that lets customers examine its popular strollers from all sides, which beats merely looking at still pictures to make a buying decision.

Bugaboo’s mobile site features moving animation that lets customers examine its popular strollers from all sides, which beats merely looking at still pictures to make a buying decision.

7) A New UI Design Idea: Subdued Color Contrast

You’ve probably been taught that contrast should be high and loud to facilitate an easier reading experience, but 2018’s app design trends go against the mainstream conventional wisdom by toning things down a bit.

app design trends - Weather Apps Color Contrast

The usual typography contrast is black font on a white background—there are even various color-contrast calculators on the web (like Contrast Ratio) to help you find good contrast for readability.

In 2018, though, contrast is expected to get more subtle, which is actually easier on the user’s eyes and  has real mobile UI and UX design advantages in that it facilitates a better reading experience. Some of the the biggest companies in the world are already moving to this subdued form of color contrast for their websites.

Airbnb Mobile Site Homepage

Take Airbnb’s mobile site as a web example of this app design trend: Note how many of the fonts on the homepage are actually faded black or all-out gray and how the white space around the blocks of content and images is really gray space. As a result, there’s still exceptional contrast for easy reading, but it’s easier on the eyes.

8) Flat UI Design 2.0 Begins to Replace Flat UI Design

One of the few, but big, criticisms of flat design is the lack of signifiers on things like icons and buttons, which fail to adequately communicate functional design elements. This touch screen interface design has a negative impact on user experience since what users can click and tap isn’t necessarily obvious at first.

app design trends 2018 - Flat Design UI

This might not seem like a big deal to veteran users, but the point of good native mobile app design—mobile and otherwise—is to make the UX design easy enough that even novice users can find their way around your native app or mobile website.

Flat design 2.0 is like Material Design in a sense because both use more 3D UI design idea effects like shadows, gradients and lighting effects. However, whereas Material Design is more of an aesthetic and design philosophy based on paper and ink (read: tactile elements), flat design 2.0 is an actual response to and way of addressing the shortcomings of flat mobile application design.

Evernote Android Screen

As 2018 wears on, look for more mobile sites and apps to retain the flat look in their touch screen interface design, but with noticeable shading to indicate subtle 3D elements. These will make it easier for users to figure out where to tap and slide, such as Android Evernote’s native mobile app above.

9) Micro-interactions on Native Mobile Apps Become More Prevalent

Micro-interactions are focused on the UX design of a native mobile app. They’re subtle tasks that work around four elements.

  • The Trigger
  • The Rules
  • Feedback
  • Loops and Modes

Slack is an awesome example of this native mobile app design trend that is replete with great micro-interaction examples.

app design trends 2018 - Slack Direct Messages

I tap the “plus” sign next to Direct Messages. This is the trigger because it starts the micro-interaction. Now, I get to communicate directly with my Slack collaborator, which forms the rules or the way the interaction functions. How do I know this? Because, thirdly, the feedback Slack gives me on-screen shows a “New Conversation” box opening up, where I can chat directly with her. Finally, the length of this micro-interaction—or loop—is as long as I want it to be, as I can close the new message when I want to.

app design trends 2018 - Slack New Conversation

As you can see, these micro-interactions in app UI design let people instantly observe the results of their on-screen actions by providing helpful and understandable feedback. This greatly improves the mobile UX design. As more mobile application designers see this innate value to users, micro-interactions will get more widespread.

10) Increased Tracking in Typography Improves Mobile UI and UX Design

So much of the mobile web today deals with readability. One of the most important aspects of readability is tracking, or the consistent space between all letters in a word. The greater the tracking, the easier the word is to read because users don’t have to squint to read the word.

app design trends - Tracking in UI

With the big focus on native mobile app usability, designers need to look at increasing the readability of their content.

Typography authority Typewolf released its list of the most popular fonts of last year, and the big app design trend for this specific area is spacious and generous tracking between letters of the most popular fonts, which will continue into 2018. With Gartner predicting the number of mobile devices increasing in 2018, readability is going to be increasingly vital to mobile UX and UI designs that will attract native mobile app users in even greater numbers.

app design trends 2018 - Dell Mobile Homepage

Note how Dell’s mobile site uses this generous tracking evenly in between the letters of the type on its homepage.

Bonus: Mobile Design Trends That Have Died!

We didn’t get to where we are in mobile application design without some significant mobile design failures. Here are some notorious mobile design trends that simply died off.

1) The Flip Design

Remember that old Motorola Razr phone your buddy had? It featured and popularized the flip mobile device design that everyone at the time thought was cool…yet it failed to stand the test of time. For some time several years ago, people thought it was trendy to whip out their cell phones and flip them open before talking. Now, the instant gratification of the touch screen interface design of iOS and Android smartphones that you can just whip out for talk and data rule the day.

app design trends - Motorola Razr Flip Design

Confirming the death of this mobile design trend for good is news that Lenovo, Motorola’s new owner, is actually going to completely remove the name “Motorola” from its phones. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

2) Push to Talk

Another mobile design that was popular before Apple and Samsung popularized their version of smartphones with unique touch screen interface design, push-to-talk was essentially turning your phone into a walkie-talkie. Its selling point was letting users talk to an entire group of their friends at once instead of just one friend at a time.

app design trends - Push to Talk Nextel Phones

However, as the years wore on, designing phones for this service became so unpopular that it’s now a relic of a bygone era.

Confirming the death knell for this outdated mobile design trend was the Sprint announcement, four years ago, that it would totally kill off its Nextel push-to-talk network. Goodbye!

3) Infrared Ports

In the early 2000s, many cell phones had infrared or IR ports. These offered wireless transfer of your data over very short distances, and they demanded that your devices had to be side-by-side for it to work.

app design trends 2018 - Infrared Ports

Because IR ports were restrictive, it was no surprise that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi soon came along and banished this mobile design trend for good.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find many phones with this feature.

What the Future Holds for Mobile Application Design

Look for these trends to dominate the native mobile app design landscape as the year progresses. It’s clear that now is the time of mobile design, as evidenced by mobile users now completely outweighing desktop users…. Don’t hold your breath waiting for these stats to reverse.

With this focus on mobile application design, it’s no surprise that the design community is looking for increasingly interesting app design trends to improve the user experience and get people on native mobile with greater comfort than ever.