Designing Experiences in the Mobile Era
By Gaurav Mathur, VP, User Experience Design, Myntra
As of July 2018, mobile internet users were about 92 percent of total active internet users globally. More users than ever before are accessing social media and digital content on-the-go. Mobile friendly payment methods in Asia are fuelling transactions on shopping, cab hailing, and food ordering platforms. Both, time spent and mobile data consumed on the mobile are growing rapidly.
So, what does it take to design experiences on the mobile for a generation that’s always on-the-go?
Shaping Mobile Experiences
Designers are now adopting the mobile-first approach. The process starts with the hardest problem of making the most essential information and actions available on the smallest screen first and then working towards larger screen sizes. Designing for mobile first implies rethinking the information architecture, simplifying everything so that the core experience can reside on a small form factor, and detailing it to an extent that the experiences are delightful. Capturing the imagination of mobile users is no easy task!
Unlike large screens, the time spent on mobile is rarely contiguous and is broken into short but frequent sessions. It is imperative for designers to create flows that allow users to continue their journey from where they left in an earlier session or provide options of saving, liking, or sharing what they discover. For example, in an e-commerce platform, simple actions like displaying recent searches, recently viewed products, and allowing users to save items to their wishlist goes a long way in driving engagement and conversions. Personalising the experience based on the user’s browsing patterns as well as affinity towards brands and price-points leads to further delight as users have to perform fewer actions.
Making experiences accessible to users with mobiles that have low storage capacity and in low-bandwidth areas is another challenge.
In an e-commerce platform, simple actions like displaying recent searches, recently viewed products, and allowing users to save items to their wishlist goes a long way in driving engagement and conversions
Mobile users are also less tolerant towards slow loading pages. According to Google/SOASTA research, as page load time goes from 1s to 5s, the probability of users bouncing increases 90 percent! Images are generally the heaviest parts of content in terms of downloaded bytes. Optimising images can often lead to faster load times. Use of vector file formats like SVG, font-icons, CSS shapes and effects (gradients, shadows, animations) can further improve performance without compromising on the sharpness at various screen resolutions. Another emerging technology called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) makes pages load instantly. All these together significantly improve the experience for the user.
User Research and Prototyping in the Mobile Era
Understanding user behaviour through usability studies is an established practice in UX Design. In a moderated mobile usability session, researchers use multiple cameras to capture the mobile screen and the user’s facial expressions as they perform the specified tasks in a lab. However, unlike desktop usage which is generally in a quite controlled environment, real mobile usage could take place almost anywhere — during a noisy commute, in a crowded mall, or during a meeting. Besides the numerous distractions choppy data connections could also cripple the experience. Such real world experiences are hard to recreate in a research lab. Tools embedded in web and native apps solve for this and allow creators to observe remote user sessions, view touch heatmaps, and also review usage data. Insights derived from this data are then used by designers to address any usability issues and refine the workflows to achieve the conversion goals.
Since mobile experiences involve gestures and touch, the elements on the screen are often animated by designers to give them personality and accentuate feedback. Motion in the user interface, when done right, gives an illusion of speed and the perception of the product being responsive. The new age digital prototyping tools allow designers to create and refine these micro-interactions.
Creating an engaging, delightful, and snappy mobile experience involves design and technology to play together. New possibilities of visualising information, navigating, playing, and integrating products in relation to the real world are already emerging with the addition of augmented reality (AR) capabilities in mobile operating systems. Through mobile devices, more technologies will reach the consumers and design will continue to play a key role in not just humanising them but also making the enjoyable to use.