UX Design Series: Photo Editing Mobile Apps

Mascot and Creative Champion
Published27 Nov, 2019
UX Design Series: Photo Editing Mobile Apps - Superside

UX design (user experience design) significantly impacts a business’s bottom line. Its primary objective is to address users’ needs and provide a positive experience every time they interact with a brand or product. It drives companies to analyze and understand how users interact with their product, which then enhances the business’s overall success.

Our UX Design Best Practices Series will delve further into the importance of UX design in relation to brand growth, as well as explain the best practices for UX design of different mobile apps, starting with photo editing apps. Product designers and UX designers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from this series. It will also be of value to marketing teams, who are expected to understand why products are designed the way that they are so they can craft messaging that will resonate with audiences.

In a culture consumed by selfies and Instagram influencers, it’s safe to say that people take the quality of their photos seriously. To cater to the growing population of social media addicts and influencers, every new smartphone claims to be the “it” mobile device for taking photos. Due to the influx of built-in smartphone cameras, there are more photo editing mobile apps on the market than ever before.

The Photo Editing Apps

There are two pain points in the UX design of photo editing apps. First, how can you design a photo editing mobile app that drives maximum and continual user adoption and engagement? And second, how can you design a more usable app that reduces the chance of uninstallations?

The key to designing a photo editing mobile app that drives maximum user engagement is to understand and incorporate basic user experience design principles. And to reduce the number of uninstallations, the design team must understand the needs of their target audience and how UX design can help address those needs.

The UX Design Behind Photo Editing Apps

First things first: what exactly is UX design? A study from the Oxford Journal Interacting with Computers explains that the goal of UX design in business is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use and pleasure provided in interaction with a product.” In short, UX design is about designing products that provide users with a positive experience when they engage with your product or brand.

The Differentiator

UX design best practices vary among the different types of mobile apps. What makes photo editing mobile apps different is that everyone has access to capturing high-quality photos and sharing them on social platforms. The symbiotic relationship between social media and cutting-edge smartphone technology means that professional photographers aren’t the only ones that photo editing apps are expected to cater to.

Novice photographers also want to capture and share images that appear to be of the highest quality. That is why the most successful photo editing apps are designed with a wide range of photography skill levels in mind. Design teams must approach the UX design for this type of app by prioritizing a diverse range of users who wish to edit their photos, from the most inexperienced to professional photographers.

Must-have Elements for Good UX Design

There are certain elements that good photo editing apps must include. Given that this type of app is expected to appeal to a wide range of skill levels, the most important element is usability.

1. Usability

UX/UI Designer Allie Taylor recently conducted a case study in which she led two UX designers in a project to redesign the iOS version of Polarr, one of the most powerful photo editing apps in the game. Despite being a leader in the photo editing app space, Polarr struggles to convert downloaders into returning, loyal users. That’s because the interface is quite complicated and intimidating for novice users.


After analyzing the user archetype and the photo editing experience, Taylor and her two designers summarized three objectives to guide their design moving forward:

  • Simplify the photo editing process
  • Speed up the photo editing process
  • Work with familiar frameworks of other photo editing apps

All three objectives were aimed at making the app more user-friendly for those who are only beginner-level photographers. Taylor and her team identified and addressed the main issue that prevents the app from converting returning users, while still upholding the app’s “Professional” workspace. This was done intentionally to ensure that the app met the needs of both novice photographers and expert photographers, allowing for users to easily migrate between the two workspaces depending on their skills. [2]

2. Clearly defined CTA

A clear CTA (call-to-action) button is another essential element of photo editing apps. It is not sufficient to insert a CTA button with a vague description, such as “submit” or “enter.” Users should have a firm understanding of what will happen if they click any given button (“Save photo,” “Delete changes,” “Select new photo,” etc.).


Additionally, the CTA must be visible and easy to access. Whether it the CTA be front and center or at the bottom of the screen, run tests to ensure that the CTA can be easily identified and reached. If your users are unable to access the button without shifting their grip on their mobile device, it isn’t easy to use.

3. Bandwidth

The UX design of photo editing apps should also take into account bandwidth consumption. It’s important to avoid a high bandwidth when designing this type of app, as this is expensive and can take a negative toll on the user experience.

Put a cap on the amount of information that must be downloaded by creating reusable elements and features that can be applied to various tasks. For additional information or design assets, be sure to request user consent before the user proceeds with the download.

4. Battery level

The final element that the UX design must take into account in photo editing apps is battery life. There’s no better way to deter regular users than by draining their battery every time they use your app on the go. Screen brightness and color are the biggest factors to consider when it comes to battery life.

To avoid battery drainage, try using fewer (and darker) colors whenever possible. Shorter app navigation and limited background services, such as location detection, can also go a long way in preserving battery.

2019: What’s Trending in Mobile App UX Design

UX design trends are constantly changing and evolving to keep up with technological advancements. It’s essential to stay on top of the latest trends to ensure that your mobile apps meet the expectations of present-day users. This year, mobile app UX design has changed significantly due to cutting-edge technology, such as AR (augmented reality) and continuous updates to smartphone cameras. Let’s take a look at some of the trends that have emerged as a result.

In terms of UX patterns, 2019 witnessed the rise in popularity of tab bars, encouraging simple app navigation and overall clarity for users. There is also more focus on the bottom of the screen for navigation and push buttons to enhance reachability and CTA accessibility. Speaking of buttons, colorful bubbles are in this year. CTA buttons are now more colorful with rounded edges, a perfect contrast against the white background that apps are now featuring.


In terms of the actual camera, photo editing apps aren’t the only apps relying on this important smartphone feature. Mobile apps of all different intents and purposes are continuing to incorporate the camera in their user experience. From scanning credit cards to adding friends on Snapchat via Snapchat Codes to scanning barcodes with the Momox and Amazon apps, cameras continue to be a highly prioritized element of mobile apps.

A more cutting-edge trend of 2019 relates to AR. Big time brands have made it their mission to implement AR in their apps’ user experience. Nike, for example, just recently launched a new version of its app, which helps users find their right shoe size. Talk about taking online shopping to a whole new level.


While the incorporation of AR is still relatively new in design, it will be interesting to see how it continues to impact the UX design of mobile apps.

Enhance Your UX Design

Effective UX design is a fundamental pillar to any business, backed by thorough research, analysis and empathy. When it comes to designing a photo editing app, put usability and user engagement at the forefront of your UX design. All that’s left after that is to test, test and test again.

We understand that UX design is a critical element of any good design product. That is why our Superside design academy is devoted to training each member of our design team in UX design best practices. This program ensures that our designers are equipped with the experience and necessary tools to create optimized mobile apps and websites for our clients.

Superside’s international team of top-rated designers is equipped and ready to help you with any web or mobile design project you have on the horizon. Our dedicated project managers are available 24/7 to facilitate the project and ensure the end result matches your company’s standards and exceeds your expectations.

Schedule a call today to discuss how Superside can help you take your UX design to the next level.

Shmoon Mascot and Creative Champion
My fellow Supersiders and I enable and elevate ambitious marketers and creative teams—breaking through bottlenecks and scaling creative. There is a better way to get design done. We chase the sun to bring you the "Shmoon"— that's me :)
Subscribe to our newsletter

Don’t miss anything!

Join our community of 50,000+ who receive the best in design and marketing content, weekly.

Superside is a revolutionary way for businesses to get good design done at scale.Trusted by 450+ ambitious companies, Superside makes design hassle-free for marketing and creative teams. By combining the top 1% of creative talent from around the world with purpose-built technology and the rigor of design ops, Superside helps ambitious brands grow faster. Since inception, Superside has been a fully remote company, with more than 700 team members working across 57 countries and 13 timezones.
© 2024 Superside. All rights reserved.