Background The increasing pervasiveness of mobile technologies has given potential to transform healthcare by facilitating clinical management using software applications. These technologies may provide valuable tools in sexual health care and potentially overcome existing practical and cultural barriers to routine testing for sexually transmitted infections. In order to inform the design of a mobile health application for STIs that supports self-testing and self-management by linking diagnosis with online care pathways, we aimed to identify the dimensions and range of preferences for user interface design features among young people. Methods Nine focus group discussions were conducted (n = 49) with two age-stratified samples (16 to 18 and 19 to 24 year olds) of young people from Further Education colleges and Higher Education establishments. Discussions explored young people’s views with regard to: the software interface; the presentation of information; and the ordering of interaction steps. Discussions were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Results Four over-arching themes emerged: privacy and security; credibility; user journey support; and the task-technology-context fit. From these themes, 20 user interface design recommendations for mobile health applications are proposed. For participants, although privacy was a major concern, security was not perceived as a major potential barrier as participants were generally unaware of potential security threats and inherently trusted new technology. Customisation also emerged as a key design preference to increase attractiveness and acceptability. Conclusions Considerable effort should be focused on designing healthcare applications from the patient’s perspective to maximise acceptability. The design recommendations proposed in this paper provide a valuable point of reference for the health design community to inform development of mobile–based health interventions for the diagnosis and treatment of a number of other conditions for this target group, while stimulating conversation across multidisciplinary communities.