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Mobile UX That Works - Key Principles You Need to Know


Arpit Jain

October 04, 2017

With the mobile age upon us, let’s take a look at some important statistics

  • There are over 2.4 billion smartphone users across the globe – Statista

  • 52% of the time individuals spend on digital media is on mobile apps – GO-Globe

  • 48% of consumers use the mobile for research – Smart Insights

  • 26% of consumers start research using a branded mobile app- Smart Insights

  • Apps account for 89% of mobile media time – Smart Insights

  • 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months – Outerbox

  • 80% of shoppers use a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations – Multichannel Insights

  • 61% of consumers are unlikely to return to a mobile site if they have trouble accessing it – McKinsey & Company

With smartphones becoming the ‘go-to’ source for information and becoming drivers of the anytime-anywhere culture, designing great mobile experiences demands a different rule book. Simply porting a desktop application to mobile and adding a hamburger menu to it just doesn’t make the cut in today’s market where users demand elevated and frictionless user experiences.

Given the constraints of the mobile real estate, in this blog, we take a look at some key principles in designing mobile user experiences that work.

Creating UX Personas

The first step to designing a great UX is to identify the consumer base. By paying close attention to the target market, designers will be able to identify how to create UX personas – whether their consumer base is made of ‘collectors’ or ‘seekers’. Collectors are those users who use a mobile app or a mobile website to alleviate boredom. Seekers are those who leverage the mobile to complete a task or locate some data. Identifying this can help the designers create features that assist the user accordingly. For example, UX for the seekers should ensure that they can complete their tasks and achieve their objectives as easily and simply as possible. For collectors, designers have to focus on creating a wealth of diverse data and identify ways of keeping the user occupied.

Single-trial Learning

For great UX design, mobile experiences have to be highly intuitive to support seamless interactions. UX design, thus, has to be easily learnable and needs to ensure that the users can learn and remember how to use the app automatically in the first few interactions. This means that designers have to create interactions that are clear, consistent, and visible. Those should help the user infer the order of the steps that they need to follow to complete a task. Identifying the expectations of the users and understanding how they are going to use the application can help designers identify how things are expected to work. Since touchscreen gestures are mostly invisible, designers thus need to focus heavily on comprehensibility and ensure that the user gets to know how things work in the first three interactions with the application.

Content Focus

Content is an important part of great mobile experiences making legibility of content an important UX focus area. The content has to be optimized for mobile, delivered in bite-size chunks and should be easy to digest. Given the limited space on mobile devices, displaying only the essential pieces of content and functionalities, making the content available using menus, ensuring that the menus have progressive disclosures and employing simple terminology, ensuring that notifications for new content do not interrupt the primary content helps in making the UX design crisper and user-friendly. Further, designers need to aim for optimal mobile typography to achieve a balance between space conservation and legibility. Also, less is more when it comes to UX design for mobile. Hence, reducing clutter by replacing text with appropriate icons wherever possible goes a long way in improving the effectiveness of UX design.

Appropriate Touchscreen Target Size

The interface elements on mobile devices have to be big enough to capture the touch actions but also have to be small enough to not clutter the small screen space. Having small touch targets can be frustrating to use since they demand great accuracy and hence can be prone to errors. Given the diverse range of screen sizes and operating platforms, UX designers need to ensure that they follow the interface and interaction guidelines to get the right target size. Along with target size, designers should pay close attention to the spacing between the targets. Action buttons that are too close to one another can lead the user to make undesired actions which can lead to user frustration and fatigue. Small things such as spacing out contradicting buttons such as the ‘save’ and ‘delete’ buttons, scaling spacing appropriately, and selecting the correct target size contribute greatly to making a good UX great.

Hand Position Should Influence Controls Placement

According to research, almost 49% of mobile users employ their thumb to interact with their mobile devices. Thus, UX designers have to optimize the design experience to accommodate the thumb reach zone when placing the controls on a mobile application or website. Along with this, they need to ensure that the commonly used features are placed in the regions that are easily accessible and actions such as the delete buttons are placed in areas that are harder to reach. Offering accessibility behavioral features that take into account the different user types and keeping in mind right and left-handedness are other design features that help in creating great user experiences.

Minimizing Dependence on Data Inputs

Since consumers are always looking for shortcuts to get things done, UX designers need to minimize the number of data inputs in their designs. As typing on small devices can also be a challenge, UX designer can improve the UX by removing unnecessary fields, shortening forms and providing ‘remember me’ options for future use. Further, providing auto-complete options and location detection features to further reduce data input demands increase task success rates, reduce task time and enhance the user experience greatly.

Lastly, UX designers have to aim at creating seamless and frictionless experiences for the mobile savvy user of today. Ensuring synchronization across devices, minimizing the number of steps to complete a task, decreasing page loads, ensuring content is available even in the absence of online connection, providing alternate path to reduce dead-ends, optimally utilizing mobile phone features such as cameras, touch ID and GPS helps in simplifying user journeys contribute to great UX design.

Mobile users of today appreciate simple designs and smooth interactions that assist in meeting their needs in an effortless manner. Thus, UX designers should not think of mobile design in isolation. Identifying when a user’s journey is likely to begin on the mobile, assessing the likely transitions between mobile and desktop channels and understanding where mobile fits into the user journey all contribute in creating a superlative and rock solid mobile UX.

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