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Mobile User Experience Guidelines and Recommendations

Mobile user experience encompasses the user’s perceptions and feelings before, during and after their interaction with a native app or mobile website. To help agencies, the MobileGov Community of Practice released 42 mobile user experience guidelines in 2013.

However, mobile development is an ever-changing target and agencies need quick mobile development “do’s and don’ts” so we challenged MobileGov community members at events over the last six months to tell us the most important things agencies need to do when mobilizing their information, products and services.

We’ve turned the 42 guidelines  (which are still available at the bottom of this page) into the following six Mobile User Experience Guidelines. Below them we’ve have embedded a Hackpad where we’ve collected resources, tools and agency examples agency program managers and mobile developers can use to develop the guidelines. Please visit the MobileGov Hackpad below and add your agency’s resources.

Guideline 1: Make sure your content is structured and chunked appropriately for multiple devices
Guideline 2: Follow industry user interface guidelines and government regulations (like 508) in the development of your mobile product
Guideline 3: Leverage the device’s features for usability and accessibility
Guideline 4: Test at multiple points in the design/development process
Guideline 5: Collect and use data (quantitative and qualitative) to determine what content your users want and where
Guideline 6: Develop security and privacy guidelines with regard to what the app does/how it protects user data and government systems

Originally published September, 2013

Since November 2012, the Mobile Gov Community of Practice has been working to create mobile user experience expertise in government with workshops, wikithons, webinars, a user experience toolkit and our Mobile Gov Guidelines and Recommendations Crowdsourcing tool. In September 2013, based on feedback from the crowdsourcing tool, we released these mobile user experience guidelines for government. Listed below are user experience practices ordered by importance (critical, somewhat important and important). In parentheses next to each practice, are the user experience elements.

We published specifica articles on Information Architecture (IA)Content, Functionality, Design, Trustworthiness and User Context.


All users will expect this element; a cornerstone/root of the mobile product user experience.

  • Put the user’s principal task ‘front and center’ (IA)
  • Use plain language (there’s no screen room for jargon) (IA)
  • Keep button labeling/navigation short and clear (IA)
  • Provide user-centered content (Content)
  • Develop use cases for your app. Who is likely to use and where? (Functionality)
  • Develop security guidelines with regard to what the app does and what information it collects to earn users’ trust (Trustworthiness)
  • Optimize application for performance (e.g. time to load, time to play multimedia file, time to save, time to connect to data) (Functionality)
  • Eliminate unnecessary elements (Content)
  • Follow industry guidelines for use/development of mobile functionalities (camera, gyroscope) and platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, etc) and do not create different interactions/behaviors than the default expected behavior (Functionality)
  • Optimize app to reduce the size and power drain on the mobile device (Functionality)
  • Use analytics to identify content priorities (e.g. which content is important for mobile users) (Content)
  • Start by solving only one problem with your app/site, and do it well (Functionality)
  • Structure content for availability on any device any time, anywhere (Content)
  • Use plain language for your mobile app/site title, no acronyms (IA)
  • Turn content into data that can be structured (e.g., XML, RSS, APIs) (Content)
  • Review and approve design before you begin coding (Design)
  • Leverage mobile only features – Geolocation, camera, ability to click to call a number, etc. to enhance the user’s experience. Many people prefer to use mobile as opposed to desktop experiences (Design)
  • Build user feedback loop into app/Update app based on user feedback (Functionality)
  • Review designs for 508/accessibility compliance (Design)
  • Provide well organized content to create increased feelings of trust (Trust)
  • Make content easy to share (Content)
  • Use functionality of proposed app to decide whether to develop a native, hybrid or web app. Example: if app uses the camera function then a native app might be best choice (Functionality)
  • Make content 508 accessible (Content)
  • Use web traffic metrics to determine priority of content for app/site (Functionality)
  • If multiple “related” applications are developed, consider developing an application that allows users a one-stop link to all these related applications (instead of them having to search separately in the app store) (Functionality)

Very Important

Most users will expect this element; important for meeting expectations of users.

  • Be succinct. Size matters, with regard to titles, multimedia (Content)
  • Guide users through information provision: tell them why you’re collecting it, and provide information on the risks and benefits to them giving it (Trustworthiness)
  • Clearly state the app’s (or site’s) objectives and the agency mission to create atmosphere of trust (Trustworthiness)
  • Clearly ask for honest feedback to inspire feelings of trust (Trustworthiness)
  • Layer content, expanding the ‘tree’ per user’s need (Content)
  • Make content modular (Content)
  • Try not to use open-ended questions that could garner more personal information than you need (Trustworthiness)
  • Use the manufacturer’s UI guidelines when provided (Design)
  • Don’t give users opportunity to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII) (Trustworthiness)
  • Let user profiles drive content (Design)
  • Develop high-fidelity wireframes (Design)
  • Don’t wait for the perfect IA; put it out there and revise based on user feedback (IA)
  • Review and test your app with paper prototyping (Functionality)
  • Use skeuomorphic^ design with caution (Design)
  • Consider developing multiple apps for complex functionality (Functionality)


Many users will expect this element; will enhance the user experience if available.

  • Don’t use PDF’s on small screen devices (e.g., smartphones) if possible, they’re not mobile friendly (Content)
  • Provide a non-mobile choice to provide info: e.g., Fax, postal mail, office (Trustworthiness)