Designing for mobile empty states

On a vast majority of UI design projects, the initial user experience is an afterthought. Yet, the first steps a user takes are critical for several reasons. First, the initial experience gets any data loaded or necessary setup done. Second, and perhaps as importantly, the initial experience teaches users how to use the software and sets expectations going forward. If, as is often the case, the initial screen a person sees is simply a blank table with no data in it…what sort of message does that send? Instead, we should think about how we might make that first moment one of value.

To that end, Craig Dennis has written Designing for the Empty States, identifying three types of empty states on mobile screens (includes some nice screenshots):

  • First Use – the first time a user encounters a screen
  • User Cleared – when a user has completed some step or cleared a list
  • Errors – an error screen that fills the screen

In my own practice I’m trying to design empty state screens from the very beginning…along with the core screens of the application. They shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Published: January 18th, 2013