Learn more about user experience, web development and digital marketingView training courses

Mobile

bm eyesI have a hunch, based on no solid foundation, that in a few years (I’ll commit to 5) we won’t talk about mobile first. I believe it is a short term fad or a transition. Instead we will talk about independent design, separating form from function.

User research will define user requirements and design will be fined tuned to the medium on the front end regardless of the platform, technology or body part it’s beamed on to.

This theory occurred to me when I heard the CEO of Evernote talking about their approach to design, and again as I watched the most recent episode of Black Mirror with its retina display technology.

The death of ‘mobile first’

I am a big science fiction fan, and I love it when concepts and ideas that someone dreamed up for a TV series set hundreds (if not thousands) of years in the future become a reality. We all looked on in disbelief at Star Trek’s communicators back in the 60’s, now they are pervasive, but will they boldly go further.

Here is what I think could kill mobile first:

  • Screens are already growing to be more expansive and the race for the biggest but manageable screen must surely be over with the iPhone 6 plus and Samsung. Anything else will really disrupt and cannibalise the tablet market, where we are already seeing a slowing of interest. These screens barely need a mobile first approach due to their size, they are a law unto themselves
  • Wearable tech means there is a third screen to interact with, the second screen mobile will be the main interaction for now but this will split across desktop or TV as technology merges. I’ll leave others to discuss the merits of the iWatch and similar devices. Google glass is the highest profile device in this sector but it didn’t take off, as the media expected. This is probably due to it being no more than a prototype and has now been discontinued till they can overcome the geeky stereotype and the fact that most people don’t want invasive technology on their face or others

blog wearable

  • Real retina display beaming right onto your eye (as per Brooker’s vision), will be the next advancement from, let’s say, Google. The screen then, is as big as it needs to be
  • I have played with Occulus Rift and it certainly felt like the future, and Facebook even put their money where their eyes are. Or is it doomed already?
  • Microsoft have launched the Windows 10 HoloLens which will have us interacting with everything in our household

  • Other alternatives are screens or digital paper that expand to a size that you need. Sony is experimenting, but it’s very expensive and I was hoping for something more akin to Minority Report
  • If none of these were futuristic enough for you, how about projecting on to electrolysed air? I saw this prototyped a few years ago for a new type of TV. I can’t find any mention of an improved or production ready model but it can’t be far away. There is a 3D version that was prototyped back in 2011 which was starting to look like Star Wars-esque technology. Why project onto air when you can project onto yourself… via a bracelet. We have plenty of real estate around our bodies to play with

Mobile will die as our relationship with it deteriorates and sours and we will move on to other channels, whether it is those above or others not yet in the public domain e.g. Robots (for discussion in another blog on robotic interfaces).

A world after mobile

But what are the consequences of all this new technology? I cast my mind back to Charlie Brooker’s previous visual treats on dystopian technology (I hereby name it dystech) where futuristic everyday devices and software have a negative impact on human relationships and interactions. Some argue that technology is already impeding our ability to communicate and engage, campaigns like Look UP are trying to draw our attention to this impending doom.

Enough ranting, above are just a few alternatives to what might surpass the ‘mobile first’ rhetoric that’s so popular at the moment. Responsive design is a solution for the design challenges of the moment. The devices and technology thrown into the multichannel mix will grow and vie for popularity. This will mean user experience and design will need to encapsulate the demands of a multi-dystech world, not just flash in the pan technology.

Everyone knows you need a mobile presence – but how do you get it right? Where do you start?

We’ve been teaching Mobile UX for years – as one of our most popular courses we thought we’d ask Alex Baxevanis our most experienced trainer at Webcredible a bit more about what the course covers – and also get a sneak preview of some of his top tips for designing for mobile.

Enjoy!


Transcript:

Here’s what Alex Baxevanis told us when we interviewed him…

The mobile user experience course is all about helping you take a product or service, whether it’s a new one or something that you already have like a website, and adapt it to a multi-device world.

I have worked on mobile user experience design projects for brands such as Dulux and UCAS, and I used to be a developer and I still like to do that as a side project so I’ve built a couple of apps in my own time that are out there in the App Store.

There are a lot of interesting considerations around designing for multiple devices but my top tip is… always preview your designs in a real device. Do it often, every time you iterate your design, and actually try to touch the buttons you are designing. Does it feel natural? Does it feel big enough? Does it feel clear enough when viewed from a distance?

One of the most interesting things that we cover in the Mobile UX course is understanding that there are a lot of different contexts that people might use your product or service. Nowadays, having a lot of little devices around us means we can take a product or service everywhere with us but we don’t necessarily always use it in the same way. An airline booking app for example might be used very differently when you’re at the airport looking for your boarding pass compared to when you’re sitting on the sofa with a couple of friends thinking where to book your next holiday, can we all book it together?

We don’t go into the actual development and how to build an app in the course, but we tell you what would make it successful.

So, if you want to learn more about designing mobile websites and applications come to our course and learn from our experience, from myself and the entire team here at Webcredible.


You can get more information and book your place on our Mobile UX course and get the advice and skills you need to get going with your mobile strategy  - or give us a call on 020 7423 6320 and we can work out how we can best help you with a mobile project.

There’s loads more that Alex said to us which we’ll share in due course (so watch this space) – but what do you think the most important considerations are for designing for multiple devices or getting going with your mobile touchpoints? Let us know in the comments below!

If you don’t have a mobile app or website, chances are you should.

Why? Unless your product or service has zero applicable mobile context, your mobile traffic is probably growing and will continue to do so. It’s not unusual for a business to have 15% of its traffic come from mobile one quarter, only to see it double within the next half year. Being prepared will not only ensure that you can adequately capture a growing mobile market, but will have some added benefits.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when you’re designing for mobile…

1. Mobile content

Content is vitally important when designing for mobile. You have less space to work with, but can’t force users to go to the desktop website for content they’re seeking on a mobile device.

Make sure that your content provides customers with what they need when they need it. Everything else (features, functionality, apps, websites) work in service of the content. It’s the content that customers consume, love, and hopefully pay for or share.

For non-content focused businesses, the corollary to content-first is something like task-first. Make sure that users can do what they need to do when they need to do it. Then build your solutions accordingly.

2. Mobile first

With growing mobile usage around the world, if you’re building a new product or service you should design and launch mobile first. It’s important to use mobile as a way to:

  • Pare down on features and scope creep
  • Make sure that you know what content and functionality really matters most to your customers
  • Have a design that can easily be scaled up

Scaling designs up is easy, scaling down – as most older companies who did not start out mobile first now know – is much more difficult. If you want to build better products and save time, energy, and cost in the long run, mobile first is the only way to go.

3. Guerrilla testing

If you’re not in constant contact with your customers and actively trying  to meet and exceed customer needs, chances are you’re not innovating, and/or iterating at the rate you need to stay competitive. While formal usability and concept testing is great when you have large overriding questions that need answers, guerrilla testing is a great way to get ongoing, fast, effective feedback on the fly.

Designing mobile first makes guerrilla testing that much easier. It’s less challenging to test a working prototype on a phone in a hallway, street, or cafe than it is to test a full desktop product on a laptop. Even if you’re not launching mobile first, testing mobile first gives you quick feedback so you can validate your assumptions and move to the next phase.

Just like designs, insights from testing on mobile usually scale up to desktop. Just be sure that once you finish your desktop version, you still test that to make sure you’re not missing anything.

If you want to know more about guerrilla teting, the GDS have a comprehensive guide.

4. Participatory design

Just like guerrilla testing, participatory design is a great way to quickly and effectively co-design with teams, stakeholders, customers, or all the above. While this method is by no means just for mobile, in my experience when you include customers in mobile design sessions they tend to have more fun and imaginative ideas than if they were asked to design for desktop.

Does this mean that you have to use ideas that customers co-design with you? Of course not. But if you’re looking to build a better connection with your customers during one-on-one sessions, participatory design is a great way to not only break the ice, but *see* what they have in their heads.

We recently ran a participatory design workshop at Webcredible when making our website responsive and the results were great.

5. Don’t go mobile

By that, I mean that while you need to consider mobile as part of your strategy and product roadmap, your mobile offering will differ depending on your business and customer context. It might be that you need a mobile or responsive website, rather than an app.

In making this decision, do your homework. Find out how your customers use your product. See if there are any significant benefits to going native. Do you already have a native app that you’re not updating? If you do and aren’t getting as much value out of it as you like, find out what the problem is. In short: Talk to your users! Sometimes, once you have a native app, not updating it creates a chicken-egg effect where your customers stop using it and so you don’t update it.

For certain businesses native apps act as part of a strategic branding effort. While customers might not use the app as much as the business would like, it can serve as a parked car in the app store, a brand beacon or sign of innovation. This could be as important to a business as actual usage.

If you want to learn more about designing for mobile, I teach a mobile user experience class that will help you plan, create and execute the best possible mobile presence for your organization.

Remember that moment when you started painting the living room wall, only to realise 10 minutes later you’ve accidentally made the room feel really dark and small, even though you chose a great, bright colour?

Those days are gone. Welcome the new augmented reality app, Dulux Visualizer into your life.

What does it do, I hear you ask

Here’s how Dulux describe their new app:

See your own room in any colour, live! Using unique augmented reality technology, you can see realistic Dulux paint colours appear on your walls with just a tap of the screen. Experiment with bolder colours or narrow down your colour choices with confidence.

The experts at Dulux give you a choice of colour schemes to go with your chosen paint colours or existing furnishings. You can also order paint testers to be delivered direct to your door and find your nearest paint stockists.

Want to see what it looks like in action? We created the short intro video to the app:

Why are we telling you about this? Well, ultimately because we think it’s a really great, useful and fun app (it really is quite addictive) – but also because we’re really proud to have been a part of the team that made the app a reality, from conception through to mobile interface design and testing.

Most importantly though, what do you think?

Check it out, have a play and share your decorating stories & feedback on the app with us – pictures of decorated rooms are very much welcome too.

If you’re embarking on a mobile project feel free to come and have a chat with us, or you can learn loads about mobile experience in our 1 day mobile UX & responsive design course!

Over the last year or so there has been a huge amount of debate surrounding responsive sites, dedicated mobile sites, and native apps. Specifically, debate is focused on which is best and what you should develop.

Recently I came across an example of a native app that’s fit for purpose whereas the other two mobile formats wouldn’t be. The app in question is the official 2013 Sónar Festival app.

Sonar is the International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art which takes place in Barcelona for three days every June. Apart from 3 days of multi-venue, non-stop music, there is also Sonar+D which offers workshops, hackathons, interactive installations, product demos and a lot more.

Presented by such breadth of… stuff, I initially felt overwhelmed, and the official lineup did not help at all.  How was I going to manage my itinerary for such a three-day feast? Their solution was a native mobile application, which I downloaded (for free) not expecting to use it much at all.

The best bits

After a frustrating and lengthy attempt at organising my time I turned to the app for help. Much to my surprise, it did just that, helped.

How it helped:

  • There was a great feature which allowed me to be able to bookmark my desired performances and events and create my own calendar which then alerted me a few minutes (5, 15 or 30) before every selected show. With my personalised itinerary mapped out in advance I didn’t need to worry about missing any shows
  • Using the app I could listen to the festivals official play list which were directly streamed from the app using Deezer (a music streaming service). There was also Deezer stream for each artist which was easily accessible along with a synopsis of each artist or activity. This was useful as I could browse and listen to all the artists from one location before and during the event. The collaboration between Sonar and Deezer was great, I’ve never tried Deezer before but now I might give it a try and potentially rethink my Spotify subscription.
  • For a festival with such a plethora of acts and activities they had  present this information in an user friendly format, which they did. Details on the venues was divided into ‘Sonar by day’ and ‘Sonar by night’ as well as integrating Google maps and information on transportation. Similarly, in the ‘Artists and Activities’ tab, the three types of events, the music, Sonar+D and SonarCinema were separated to avoid confusion and results for each were displayed clearly in alphabetical order with photos. In general the usability of the app was brilliant

Any UX glitches?

As a UX consultant, I am always aware there is room for improvement:

  • It’s not easy to find out how to mark an event as a favourite for it to then be added to a schedule
  • The app has some very detailed, interactive indoor maps of their venues. However, It’s not obvious which parts of the venue maps you can interact with

Despite a few small problems its assortment of user centred functions won my heart. It was great to use a festival app not primarily used as a sales tool, it was to help better the user experience. Have you had an experience with a great festival app? If so, please do share it with us, we would love to give it a go!

Case studies

Our success stories

  • UCAS

    UCAS's Track portal is award-winning, achieving a 95%+ satisfaction rating across its 750,000 users

  • Hotels.com

    Hotels.com gained a much stronger competitive advantage due to a great mobile & tablet strategy

  • Pearson Education

    Pearson Education has embedded user-centred design into all their digital design processes

More case studies

Training academy

View training courses

About us

We're a user experience agency (UX agency) that creates people-centered, efficient and delightful digital experiences.

Get in touch on 020 7423 6320