Developing an application that recognizes and adapts for the expectations and needs of the user is a difficult enough process with just a single target user in mind. For multi-user applications, it’s important to take into consideration several other factors that will have an immense impact on how the app is used by all parties.
To address these unique situations, we’ve gathered nine tips for designing friction-free multi-user applications. Whether a buy/sell model or a service provider/receiver model, you’ll have a better sense of the issues that can crop up and how they should be dealt with in your application.
1. Create a Visually Distinct UI for each User’s Interface
In building unique user interfaces for different audiences, it’s important to provide a visually distinct experience. If the user switches between user types or there’s a chance they open the wrong type by accident, they need to know which user they are currently using the app as.
That’s not to say you should completely overhaul the UI – it should use the same general structure between the app interfaces, but the element styles should be updated. This can include colors, icons, buttons, and other interface elements.
2. Make Transitioning Between Different User Types Seamless
If someone can be multiple user types, make the transition as seamless as possible. They should always know which user type they are logged in as to start, and if they want to switch, it should take a tap or two – not a complicated process.
Most importantly, don’t make them download separate apps or log out and log back in to switch between user types in the same app.
3. Design the Most Robust User Application First
One of these two interfaces will be more robust than the other. That’s most likely your main user of the app, so start there in the design process.
When you start with the more involved application, it gives you the opportunity to iron out UI and UX elements that will be used. From there? You can copy everything over when designing the other apps.
Because so many elements will be consistent across each app, nailing the biggest and most actively used app will give you a solid starting point and reduce redundancy later.
4. Determine what Permissions each User Has
Some users might have limited permissions in the app – which means a simplified UI. Sit down and map out the exact permissions and features each user will have access to. This will help determine which app is the most robust as well as the settings in the backend for development.
5. Don’t Feel the Need to Keep Everything the Same
Know the needs of your users. These might be very different personas who are interested in completely different sets of information, and your apps should reflect that. Don’t feel the need to keep the information the same on both sides.
For both user types, make the most important information as easy to access as possible. It’s tempting to have a set structure and force fit the information for both users into that structure. In reality, they likely have very different needs – design around them for a better experience.
6. Keep Consistent UI Visual Cues
Remember, some of your users will be multi-type. They might switch back and forth between app interfaces, and it can be immensely frustrating for them to have to learn two different visual styles. For that reason, keep the cues the same across app types, even if the information is vastly different.
Specifically, keep the structure of forms, buttons, and clickable objects consistent so the user can quickly learn how to use the app and switch seamlessly between user types. Animations and gestures should be consistent as well – if you swipe left to see more information in one app, it should be the same in the other.
7. Determine How Much Each User’s Needs Intersect
When you have a clear sense of the needs and the information required by each user, look for points of overlap. There will be several screens and functions that are the same between users, but also several that are unique.
This exercise helps determine why different applications are needed in the first place and how best to present the information in each app for your different users.
8. Don’t be Afraid to Change the Bottom Navigation
A lot of these tips are about what not to change, but there are some items that can and should be customized to fit the needs of your users. The bottom navigation is a prime example.
Use this opportunity to prioritize which sections need quick access and which can be harder to get to depending on user type. If you keep a section, maintain the same icons between versions, but don’t be afraid to move where those sections are found. The goal is to prioritize the most important information for your users in the navigation.
9. Create a Flow Chart of When the Users Interact with Each Other
The development process for a multi-user application often treats each interface as a unique app. So, it’s important to take the time to map out when and how user types might interact with one another. When creating screens in either app, you need a complete flow mapped out that shows when users will move back and forth and where they are most likely to do so.
Additionally, this process can help determine when users need to receive notifications or when they are waiting on an action from another user.
Creating a World Class Experience for All Users
No matter who will be using your application, it’s important that you build an unforgettable, friction-free experience for everyone. Finding the right balance between comfortable differences in the UI that still match your brand is difficult, but if you can do it, your app will be an effective resource in recruiting users of all types.