Mobile Design Pattern Gallery

**** Apr212013

Theresa Neil’s Mobile Design Pattern Gallery is a more useful book on mobile usability than Mobile Usability by Jakob Neilsen. Drawing on her expertise as a user experience consultant, the author successfully presents a variety of solutions to common user interface challenges on mobile devices, such as navigation, sorting, searching, login and checkout forms, lists and toolbars.

A Visual Gallery Glossary

Jenifer Tidwell states in the book’s foreward: “To name something is to begin to understand it.” Accordingly, this book is largely a naming of patterns the author has observed in the wild. More than just a gallery, this book is a visual glossary of mobile design patterns. This act of naming is surprisingly helpful; once you know the name of a pattern, you can more easily recognize and analyze what you encounter in user interfaces every day.

At the beginning of each section, the author provides a helpful summary showing a labeled wireframe of each pattern, boiled down to its essential elements. These wireframes are followed by screenshots of each pattern in use, from a variety of mobile apps and websites. Allowing the reader to easily see the patterns in the subsequent real-world examples, the wireframes are a thoughtful addition to the book.

Light on Text

The author doesn’t make a lot of judgements on which patterns are better than others, but briefly discusses the relative merits of or best contexts for each. She also explicitly calls out a few antipatterns throughout the book, and dedicates the last chapter to them.

Some of the tidbits of user interface advice left me wanting more. For example on page 60, discussing forms:

Show the user where they are and where they can go. Eliminate unnecessary fields and minimize the number of pages and steps.

This is nothing groundbreaking and really doesn’t differ much from guidelines for a desktop experience. But it left me wondering: if the number of fields have been whittled down to the bare minimum, is it best to break a checkout process into multiple pages? Or use one long screen? Is there real-world usability testing that shows advantages of one over the other?


There is still room for a definitive early text in the young field of mobile usability. I’m imagining a hybrid of Ms. Neil’s book and what Mobile Usability ought to have been. That is, a comparison and analysis of emerging patterns based on usability testing and first-hand observation of users.

Till then, Mobile Design Pattern Gallery is an excellent resource for designers solving creating mobile user interfaces.

NB There is also an accompanying website

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Author(s)Theresa Neil

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