I ran a Google search for ‘mobile user experience best practices’ and was presented with 3,65,00,000 results. This told me two key things -
1) this indeed is a hot topic;
2) there are way too many opinions floating around.
While the risk of being the 3,63,00,001st result looms large, I do know that we at ABOVE Solutions Inc. have been in the mobile app design and development business for way too long, and have a long list of firsts to brag about. Here are the top seven things we follow to make sure that mobile apps from our stables deliver as intended.
1) Diversity and complexity go hand-in-hand...it is all about striking the right balance!
Present day digital ecosystems are extremely diverse and are powered by multiple devices, systems, services and contexts. Add humans to the mix and the complexity grows exponentially. Mobile based apps must be seen as enablers of convenience, and must thereby enhance people’s lives for real. Keep the core benefits to a minimum - be aware of feature addiction and strive to do one or two core things in an engaging manner.
2) Design it as a service for an ecosystem and not just an app...
A vast majority of apps are built using the approach of "it has 19 core features and solves 12 of the most common problems that customers of "x" face". While this makes sense in specific contexts, most of the app shops fail to ask the questions "How can this fit-in with a services design flow? What are ways in which we can extend or make this extensible for something cool in the short/mid/long term?"
In a connected world, nurturing collaborative relationships between people is key. At ABOVE, we always begin with the magic question "How can we make sure that this solution works together with other devices, systems, and ecosystems to enable relationships and not just coexist?" The many answers to this help us in fleshing out the "what", "why" and "when" of the intended experience.
3) No matter how much you try, you can't fit a square peg into a round hole!
Many apps are scaled down versions of their web and desktop cousins. The reasons for this are many, right from budgetary constraints to ‘Let us simply go with an app version for now, and re-dux it later for branding to be consistent’ etc.
A mobile experience is contextual, unique and is driven by the core offerings that it enables. Retrofitting existing artefacts never works.
PS: We have walkedout of many such requirements - it simply is not worth the time, money and effort.
4) Follow HIG rabidly and make pivots judiciously, but do not mix cross-platform metaphors!
Assuming that 1) 2) and 3) are sorted out, a lot of app design initiatives go kaput at this stage. Just skimming through the table of contents of HIG from Apple and Google will not cut it. The same holds true for "We saw this cool example on Dribbble and Behance - it was dope and guess what? It fits what we had discussed in the last scrum meet – let’s use the same thing" track. Designers and developers need to stay updated of these guidelines continually.
PS: One the most popular image sharing apps had this mix of cross-platform metaphor across the board.
5) Allow the real specialists to do the job!
While feedback is vital, draw the line when it comes to the intricacies of design. Just because someone read one book about neurosurgery,it doesn't make them a neurosurgeon. Citations, references, et al are fine, but trust the judgement of the designers. Designers contribute a lot to this aspect, as most of them are not geared with ‘design communication’ skills.
6) Build for behaviours first, beauty next....
A lot of apps fail to make the cut simply because of not conforming to the adage "form follows function". While aesthetic is contextual and an essential component, the critical aspect is to architect the end goal(s) in optimal ways.
7) Lather, rinse, repeat
Experience is a harsh but efficient teacher. Follow items 1 - 6 continually and make refinements to the same and we can guarantee you that you will move to the top of the heap.
So, what is your take on the suggested modusoperandi? How can we simplify the process of building great experiences for the most important interface on the planet - people? I would love to hear your take on this Achilles’ heel of the industry.
About Author: Udhay Kumar Padmanabhan is the Practice Head of UX, ABOVE Solutions
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