They say you should never judge a book by its cover: sage advice from back in the day. But now, mobile apps are often judged by their icons and interfaces; all it takes to make a bad impression is a dated design, no matter how useful or well-coded your app is.
Good design takes time, and sometimes, you need a little outside help coming up with ideas. If you’re looking for some inspiration for ways to dress up your next mobile app or site, we’ve got a nice list of places you should go to get in the zone.
Here be gadgets
Not here exactly, but on our new hardware site Plugged.
Dribbble is an exclusive invite-only community for designers, where they show off concepts and works-in-progress from their projects in 400×300 pixel screenshots. You can browse the site (and sign up with Twitter as a scout if you want to follow and hire designers) even if you’re not a member.
From typography to icons to interfaces to illustrations, you can see some of the world’s best creative minds at work here. And yes, there’s plenty of mobile interface design goodness to peruse with simple searches (try queries like mobile app, ios, iphone, ipad, and android). Members also make some of their design files available for free download, so keep an eye out for those.
MyColorScreen is a repository of user-submitted Android and iOS home screens and lock screens, detailed with tips on how to recreate those delicious interfaces on your own device. For designers, it’s like walking into an eye-candy store riddled with beautiful wallpapers and widgets. Many of the customizers are pixel junkies themselves, who incorporate their own icons and backgrounds to tie their interfaces together. Spend a few minutes here to get some fresh ideas for what your app could look like.
This is a collection of iOS mobile patterns, nicely curated and displayed on a tumblog. You can browse screenshots by upload date or by category, including something to spark a new idea for every user action, including article views, commenting, login and registration forms and much more. If you just want to see some beautiful interfaces, head to Inspired UI‘s Navigation, Dashboard, and Coverflow sections, which contain some of the more vibrant screenshots of the lot.
Mobile UI Patterns
More iOS mobile patterns here, albeit with a horizontal layout of screenshots. There are a few overlaps between Mobile UI Patterns‘ finds and those of Inspired UI, but if you’re doing some serious research, it’s worth checking both of them out to see what’s been done before.
Did someone say ‘even more iOS mobile patterns?’ Lovely UI is another place to go for learning about how to deal with crucial user interaction screens that could make or break your app (or at least get you a bad review). There are a couple of unique sections here including Typography and Textures which are worth a look if you’ve gone through everything else on our other pattern site recommendations.
Arguably one of the best marketplaces for design files (with everything from print templates to icons to resources like fonts and textures), GraphicRiver boasts a very impressive stock of UI elements that are perfect for use in mobile app and site designs. Whether you’re looking to buy or just browse, you’ll find plenty of fresh design ideas in the form of UI kits, many of which are executed at high resolution for use with Retina display devices. These are usually available with several different elements (like buttons, sliders, menus, navigation bars and notifcation popups) as layered vector files so you can edit and resize them to suit your app/site easily.
Part of one-man show Oliur Rahman’s Ultralinx network, UltraUI is a collection of interface design goodness with an emphasis on clean and minimal styling. This tumblog has categories for iPhone, iPad and Android designs, and also features some lovely web design finds as well. If you want more, you can also head to Ultralinx, where Rahman posts weekly roundups of the most beautiful iPhone and Android home screens and lock screens he can find.
If you’re a mobile designer, you should already be a part of Meerli. It’s a buzzing community filled with some of the top talent from the world of interface design, and allows you to browse through a boatload of great work and the people behind them. You can follow or hire designers, and comment on and share designs right from gallery pages. There are sections for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone apps, but only the first two are populated at the time of writing. Similarly, the icon section has just opened and features only a few designs — but there’s still a lot to see here. Sign up with Twitter to get in on the action now, before the not-so-cool kids do.
That’s right, more iPhone patterns. This time around, Pttrns seems to have the freshest collection around, and even allows you to toggle between standard and @2x views — a boon for users on Retina displays.
And if you’re designing for Android, be sure to check out Android Pttrns (yes, they do admit that it’s a copy of Pttrns).
Dreamed up by Mumbai, India-based tech writer Preshit Deorukhkar, Beautiful Pixels is a labor of love that details beautifully-designed mobile apps. It’s not an inspiration gallery, but rather a blog with articles for each app that describes the merits of their design and functionality, and includes links to the apps’ site and to the stores you can buy them from. The articles not only give you an idea of what users look for and appreciate in designs, but also mention some use cases you may not have considered — invaluable for app designers.
TappGala is a simple, beautiful gallery showcasing world-class mobile interface design. The categories list is similar to that of any app store, so you can navigate directly to one that’s most relevant to what you’re working on at present. There aren’t any descriptions or comments to read here, though — just grab your inspiration at a glance and go forth on your quest to create the next big thing.
iOS Icon Gallery
App icons are usually what make the first impression with most users, so it’s important to design them with that crucial opportunity in mind. iOS Icon Gallery is a great place to find inspiration for the face of your masterpiece app. Icons are categorised as their apps are in stores, and you can follow updates to the gallery via RSS or Twitter.
As a gallery, iospirations runs the gamut of iOS-related design — from iPhone and iPad apps to mobile sites to icon design and app site designs, there’s something to inspire you for everything you’ll need to build for your own app. You can even submit your own designs or finds to be featured here.
If you’re looking for a designer for your next mobile app, Scoutzie is a great place to start — it’s a network of some of the world’s best mobile designers where you can work with a consultant to find the best match for your budget and needs. Scoutzie is also a showcase of mobile design excellence, with categories for iOS, Android, Windows and responsive apps for you to browse and be amazed by.
Mobile Tuxedo is a magical place, filled with Android and iOS app development goodies and inspiration — go here to browse mobile patterns and app icons by tag, grab some free design templates, and find dozens of useful tools and resources like device simulators and plugins. And if you’re looking to learn, there are also several articles on mobile app design and development that are worth a read.
jQuery Mobile Gallery
Perhaps the most plain-jane site on this list, jQuery Mobile Gallery has nothing but mobile sites built using the jQuery library. There aren’t any sorting options or comments to go through, but it’s still nice to see how designers are creating cross-platform compatible solutions for the mobile web.
FWA Mobile Showcase
Favourite Website Awards has long been known as one of the most prestigious web award programs in the world, showcasing outstanding web design, conceptualization and execution. Visit their mobile section (from your desktop or your mobile device) to see work for top brands and franchises by the very best in the business. Plus, you can sort items by category or by month of submission for easy viewing.
Standing amongst the web’s foremost design inspiration galleries, Creattica has over 4,000 designers showing off their latest creations, for a variety of media ranging from print to pixel art. They also have a beautiful mobile interface design section that’s a worth a look, as is their icon design section. Plus, Creattica has a whole sub-gallery of UI elements chock-full of concepts for buttons, windows, navigation and media players. You can keep up with the latest additions to the gallery via RSS too. There’s a Freebies section with design resources as well, but be warned: some of them are no longer available gratis.
Focusing primarily on mobile web design, this gallery isn’t decked out with all the bells and whistles of the big league players. Still, Mobile Awesomeness does a great job of highlighting quality site design that’s optimized for small screens. The gallery contains individual posts for sites, with multiple screenshots for each. Keep up with the latest from them on Twitter or via RSS.
Pinterest, the world’s favorite visual bookmarking service is a treasure trove of inspiration for every design niche you can think of, and mobile design fans won’t be disappointed. A quick search pulls up hundreds of pins with screenshots of beautiful apps and concepts. You can similarly find plenty of icons and UI elements to browse through, and in some cases, download for use in your own projects for free.
Behance is home to thousands of creative professionals who showcase their work in custom portfolios to get noticed and hired. The site also allows users to discover wonderful work with a powerful search engine, and a couple of keystrokes will bring up whatever it is you’d like to see, be they app screens or icons. Behance also has Curated galleries which feature hand-picked work from members’ portfolios, and you’ll find some lovely mobile design work to browse through in their Web Design gallery. It’s all here — all you have to do is look.
Formerly known as Favwork, Loviv is a place for designers to share their projects and ideas with their peers and get feedback. Mobile designers are in for a treat here — the cleanly laid out site allows you to browse through hundreds of designs, screenshots and concepts with a variety of filters to find what you need.
With its sparse layout and large screenshots, LaudableApps is perfect for casual inspiration browsing (yes, people do that). This gallery is still growing but contains some quality apps that you really should check out if you’re in business of making them.
Apple Inspires Me
Apple Inspires Me is a gallery of iOS and OSX icon and interface design, with some extras for Apple fans. In addition to the aforementioned categories, there are sections for browsing app site design, Apple-related Dribbble shots, interface design freebies and a few Apple aftermarket accessories. Whether you’re a fanboy or not, there’s lots to see and learn from here.
SmashApp is really a gallery of apps (iOS and Android) for those who love filling their devices with the latest and greatest, but the site is easy to browse and explore, and features multiple screenshots for each app. An unconventional source of inspiration, but there’s plenty to see. You can alternatively check out SmashApp’s boards on Pinterest for a simplified viewing experience.