The iTunes App Store and Google Play are crammed full of amazing apps which really do cover every possible facet and feature of our digitally enhanced lives. The app market climbed to a phenomenal $92.1 billion in 2018 – 2019 is sure to indicate another meteoric rise.

However, for each app which rises towards the top, there are scores of others that seemingly fall unused by the wayside. In fact, 75% of apps are opened just once and then deleted or left unused.

So what separates the survivors from the lost causes? A combination of factors covering aspects of visual design, features, usability and of course a comprehensive distribution and marketing strategy is vital but an app’s User Interface (UI) and Experience (UX) also play fundamental roles in hooking users for the long term.

By overviewing some of the best apps-in-category, we’ve highlighted key UI, UX and design features that can help inspire and drive the creation of your very own successful business app.


Top game: Fire Balls 3D

Fire Balls 3D falls into the category of games which are very simple and very, very compulsive and addictive in their playability! You literally fire balls at 3D stacked targets as a barrier rotates to block your line of sight. Throw in a few basic power ups, lives which you lose when you hit the barrier and other addons and you’ve got yourself a straightforward but captivating game suitable for all users.

Why has it done well?

Many users point out Fire Balls 3D effectively reduces stress with its homogenous and elegant design and simple UX and UI. This calming effect is directly affected by how well the game has been designed. It’s a game that is playable in any circumstance and users can depend on it to satisfy a mobile gaming urge.


Fire balls 3D’s user experience is designed to be calm and easy on the eye and brain to minimize cognitive load. The game doesn’t present any unnecessary blocks or complexities, it’s amazingly easy to navigate and play. Each level is attractive but there’s no embellishments – block colors, easily read menus and cartoon-like graphics construct an appealing game environment which doesn’t overbear the user with features.

What you can learn from this app:

  • Keep UI gaming controls simple if you want to tap into a wide audience
  • Use harmonious pastel colors to create a relaxing UX
  • Minimalist games are often naturally addictive so don’t feel like you need to overload on features


Top retail app: Wish

Wish was one of the most hyped shopping apps of 2018 – it’s already valued at over $8 billion – more than Sears! Offering a ridiculously diverse array of products at deeply discounted prices shipped straight from China and other parts of Asia, Wish is changing the face of online retail. Some products on Wish are even offered for free, or offered at a tokenistic price of just $1, testament to how well this app creates an incredibly cheap shopping experience.

Why has it done well?

Wish tempts customers to buy all sorts of random stuff! The UX is busy in a good way, it’s like a collage of items which you probably don’t need but then, who cares when you’re paying under $50 for a drone, RC car, a novelty hat, 15 micro USB cables and a necklace?!


Wish is about the products and these rightfully take center stage. Browsing is easy, and menus don’t control the space – the products and their discounts do.

Shopping apps need to effectively display the products alongside their price and this is what Wish achieves brilliantly. It obviously helps that some of their products are discounted by up to 90%, down from thousands of dollars to less than 100. Of course, there’s no way of telling the real value of Wish’s Chinese products but the point of Wish is the low prices on offer and this is what the UI and UX revolve around. To add to already low prices, Wish offer tons of bundle options or sales which makes this retail app even more compulsive for potential buyers. Everything price related is emphasized by the UI and UX – Wish know that products at prices this low sell themselves.

What you can learn from this app:

  • If you’re selling products, then make sure they’re boldly and clearly defined
  • Menus should be self-evident but should take a back seat whilst users are browsing products
  • Wish makes the most of its good-looking products at even better looking prices – display any discounts clearly


Travel: competes in a busy market of travel apps packed full of big brands and long term industry leaders. Travel e-commerce is about selling the place through the tiny medium of a mobile phone screen, igniting the wanderlust that resides within many.

Why has it done well? combines class leading minimal menu and navigation structures with a maximal selection of holidays and addons. They provide wide and diverse choice which is streamlined to the user, reducing the chance that a potential buyer will get overwhelmed with options during the decision making process.

UI/UX must convey a lot of information about places, hotels, reviews, holiday bolt ons and offers whilst not overcrowding the UI and overloading the user’s experience. With minimalistic but detailed menus and navigators, it guides users to where they need to be with a sleek elegance that puts emphasis on the holidays themselves.

What can you learn from this app:

  • Keep your UX focused and defined. Menus should slip and slide between each other without friction or dead-ends
  • Use product visuals to maximum effect. Avoid using classic style thumbnails in favor of more modern graphics or product depictions/photographs
  • com’s blue visual theme is simple but instantly recognizable. Use a harmonious but minimalist color palette to create a seamless browsing experience


Lifestyle: Tinder

Tinder’s reputation shows no signs of dropping out of the dating and lifestyle app spotlight. It’s effective, quick to use (and to get what you want) and it pushes all the right buttons for its younger user base. Helped along by a very well-designed UI and UX, Tinder’s top spot for dating and lifestyle shows no signs of abating.

Why has it done well?

Tinder has a reputation for being one of the most popular hook-up app available. Noticing how traditional dating apps are pretty slow, methodical and often focused towards older audiences, Tinder’s creators revolutionized the whole process to make it quicker and easier to get to the good bits. This is reflected in its smooth and fun UI and UX features.


Tinder has inspired many apps. Many have copied its swipe-card UI feature which allows users to quickly select others who appeal to them with one motion. It’s also minimal and uncluttered, maximizing usability for those who are in a hurry or those who want to just use the app with minimum effort or fuss. An awesome aspect of Tinder’s UI is its integration with social media platforms like Instagram and Spotify. Users can even select an ‘anthem’, adding to the app’s ability to quickly paint a picture of users for easy user decision making.

What can you learn from this app:

  • If your app has a social focus, then make it straightforward for users to connect accounts and share info
  • Social apps should put focus on individuals and personalization. Your UI should be a blank canvas for user personalization
  • Tinder’s graphical style is red for obvious reasons! There’s no need to stray away from the obvious color choices for your app


Health & Fitness: Headspace

Meditation and mindfulness apps have risen to the fore in the health app market. Not only does meditation come with a host of scientifically proven health benefits, it’s relatively easy to fit into your daily routine and costs you nothing.

Why has it done well?

Headspace’s reviews glow with overwhelming positivity – many users profoundly state how the app changed their life for the better. Headspace have clearly found a winning formula here, it’s almost a key to our minds in that it achieves something which seems almost impossible – guiding serious meditation through the medium of a phone. Somewhere between its very well thought out routines and levels, UI and UX and visual design, Headspace has become a crucial component of many people’s day to day life.


Headspace’s graphical art-based style is quirky and fun but above all, it’s calming and humorous and that instantly gets this app off on the right foot. With gorgeous menus and funny characters, Headspace guides users through semi-gamified levels of meditation whilst teaching vital information about its subjects.

What you can learn from this app:

  • Graphics are intrinsic to any UI. Use graphics which complement your app both visually and representatively or metaphorically
  • Headspace is extremely harmonious and that brings about a calmness that prevents any user anxiety or confusion in not knowing where to go or how to use the app
  • Headspaces UX is pragmatic and tactile – it provides personable and realistic feedback as the user progresses through the app



For an app to succeed, make sure it’s a joy to look at and use. UI and UX features are pivotal forces in this equation and they can go a long way in keeping users using your app instead of deleting it or leaving it gathering dust in a lonely corner of a menu screen.

Many of these examples focus on maintaining minimalist and uncluttered designs within a feature-rich context of usability and scope. It’s a difficult balance to strike but it’s certainly doable.

Izaak Crook

Izaak Crook is the Content Marketing Manager at AppInstitute, a SaaS App Builder platform that allows anyone to create their own iOS and Android app without writing a single line of code.

Visit AppInstitute