Though I don’t read about them much in the more popular tech press, mobile user interface or user experience (UI or UX for short) specialists have some of the toughest jobs.
They typically have just a four inch screen with which to deliver a mobile app or website.
Their end users often have must minutes, at the most, to engage this content. Sometimes, those minutes are jam-packed with distractions, such as kids yanking on their mother’s skirt, chatty neighbors on a morning train, or widescreen TVs at a sports bar.
Through this very narrow window of opportunity to engage a customer, UI/UX pros must bring to life features and functions that are both practical and delightful. Typically, product teams dictate those features and functions based on a requirements or design document, which itself may be based on a combination of marketing and market research, investor or senior management input, and intuition.
In my experience, the tendency is to cram more into any digital experience, including more text, icons, photos, links, and navigational options. The more stuff you try to accommodate, though, the harder it becomes to deliver a crisp experience. Mobile marketers and product teams can make life easier if not more structured on their UI/UX brethren by creating a framework for deciding what features would thrive the most when used on the go, where location and context matter.
Here’s link to a brief video featuring Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research in which he offers an approach for filtering and prioritizing mobile features. Bernoff, who co-wrote the outstanding book on social technologies called Groundswell, refers to “mobile moments,” or the circumstances in which being on the go and pressed for time influence how a consumer engages a brand or service. The big idea: know your brand’s mobile moments and prioritize those for delivery to your consumers.
Bernoff also talks about mobile’s opportunity to anticipate a user’s needs. That could be interpreted as a creepy privacy intrusion, but I think that he’s referring once again to knowing your mobile moments. For example, if I’m at home and searching for BBQ restaurants on my laptop, I’m likely to consider places within 20 miles or more in any direction. When I’m doing the same search on my phone, though, chances are I’ll be looking for BBQ that’s much closer to my location, perhaps not more than a couple of miles away. If the mobile search does not anticipate my perspective, it could result in a really disappointing experience. Mobile marketers and product teams therefore need to understand how mobility impacts usage if they are going to have a real chance at creating lasting engagement with their consumers.
Managing the transition from more traditional digital channels to mobile ones poses all sorts of challenges beyond UI and UX. There are content management systems, database management, and customer relationship management decisions to make, too. Understanding your brand’s or service’s mobile moments, however, strikes me as a useful way mobile marketers and product teams can determine what features and functions to emphasize for design, development and deployment.