Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Design for app success

Published in May-Jun 2014

With a booming global apps business, it is important to understand and improve the UX design for this changing paradigm.

Designing for mobile is not just a question of form-factor; it is not even about the HTML5 versus native apps debate which has clouded the thinking of some people in the industry. The really interesting design question around mobility is: How do we build for the user’s most intimate and most loved device, and allow for the intermittent, partial attention?

This question, along with other interesting aspects of the mobile user experience design, will be explored in the upcoming ‘MoDev UX 14’ – A Global Mobile Design and User Experience Conference.

Mobile applications and games have grown by the millions irrespective of the platforms you prefer.

‘There’s an app for that’ is a popular mantra which reflects our growing fascination and usage of a host of apps around every imaginable idea and walk of life. It is no surprise then that a large number of apps go unnoticed.

According to PinchMedia, “Only about 20% of users return to use the app the first day after they have downloaded it, and then it quickly drops off from there. Within 30 days out, fewer than five percent are using the app.”

This reflects the growing panic among brands, designers and developers about the relevance and importance of dedicated user experience designers who have multidisciplinary backgrounds in content writing, human computer interaction, design and development.

This reflects the growing panic among brands, designers and developers about the relevance and importance of dedicated user experience designers who have multidisciplinary backgrounds in content writing, human computer interaction, design and development. User experience design or UxD can make or break your app, as the data consistently suggests.

Apps such as Path, Polar, Paper and Flipboard stand out, not because they were the first (or even second) in their respective categories. Nor did they have millions of users before their current mobile presence. They, in fact, come from a ‘mobile first’ philosophy where the desktop or web versions either don’t or did not exist before the mobile version. They also stand out from hundreds of their competitors because of their great user experience design.

What is also interesting is how (despite a lack of interest in Pakistan about user experience design as a field and serious strategic tool to drive customer satisfaction and impact the bottom line) users tend to be so demanding in their expectation of good to great design from their digital experience. This means that presenting information and functionality to customers in an efficient, usable and enjoyable manner is not enough anymore. Looking at current trends in user behaviour, expectations and tech that is available, it is becoming more and more apparent that anticipating customer needs and satisfying them before he or she takes any action is now equivalent to creating a great user experience design.

So, what can independent developers, multimillion rupee brands and agencies do to stay relevant and produce delightful experiences for the users of their apps and games?

1. Remove friction from the customer journey

If this means minimal to no forms at all, just do it. Everyone hates filling up forms especially the ones that add no value. (If the form is a requirement then inform users about the value they will get after filling it in.) Kill them before they kill your app. Simplify your checkouts with as minimal a process as possible. Boloro, a global mobile payment platform, has introduced a simple ‘tap and pay’ mechanism whereby users can pay various fees by just tapping their NFC-enabled phone with the kiosk. (Disclaimer: My firm, The Brand Crew, manage global marketing services for Boloro.)

2. Context and content are best buddies, so connect them

Understanding context for mobile is probably the biggest strength you can have when introducing great user experience journeys. Your app may be used at university, with the user holding the phone with one hand and using one or more fingers, so your design should use white space and judge the proximity of different links and buttons or gestures accordingly. We know that people are more accurate in the middle of the screen and slower at the corners and edges and this needs to be accounted for.

3. Design for an interruptive experience

Mobile users are time-poor with multiple things on their minds, and even when they do not, they can be easily interrupted by a weather alert or a text notification, which will divert their attention from your app or game. Make sure your app or game can revert back to the same place the user left it before attending to something else.

4. Embrace the imperfect design reality

Your brand guidelines, website, desktop experience and even your first version mobile screens were designed for a different context. Hoping that they will miraculously fit into and delight your mobile app users is only a second worst case scenario after not doing anything about it. Also, the reality is such that you will have to be prepared to constantly iterate your design, so your best bet is to be constantly ready for change and to go back to drawing board and tweak. Take advantage of analytics and the right ones (See ‘Ask yourself, so what’ in the Nov-Dec 2013 issue of Aurora) issue on what online metrics you should care for and why?) to drive your design decisions.

5. Continue following the 80/20 rule

Eighty percent of your users will most likely use only 20% of the features in your app. So choose your features wisely and cut the fat. If you want your audience to stare at your content only and not do anything with it, design a TVC instead.

Ejaz Asi is Director of Planning and Strategy, The Brand Crew.