The ethos of the mobile user experience (UX) has become somewhat indifferent to user needs. Nowadays, designers tend to plump for ease of use and intuitiveness as key components of their platforms. We believe in a more empathetic approach to the mobile UX: earning the user’s respect.
It’s important to remember that the mobile UX doesn’t happen on a smartphone or tablet. It happens in a moment, at a time and place where an individual has specific needs that mobile technology can address. By changing the outcome, the mobile UX creates a relationship with the user. Their surprise matures into joy, trust and, eventually, respect.
The following mobile UX principles will help you gain your user’s respect:
Less is more
The fewer buttons and menus your user interface (UI) has, the better the UX will be. Think of the UI as a skeleton. Bones account for 12-15% of the body. If you crank that up to 50%, people would be immobile or clumsy. The same goes for the UI. Give it enough mass to provide a transparent structure, but don’t let it overwhelm the experience.
Movement is key
Both digitally and physically, the mobile UX should invoke motion. Users should navigate the experience using expressive gestures, and content should be interactive.
Google Maps is a great example of motion. When you enter an address, Google first zooms out to a birds-eye view of your journey. You see the overall route, and then with ‘pinch’ or ‘push’ motions, you can zoom into specific parts of the trip. Consequently, you trust that Google will guide you to the right place, along the most logical route.
Know your patterns
The UX on iOS and Android should be consistent, but the navigation patterns should be different. If you build iOS patterns into an Android app, or vice versa, you will annoy your users.
To avoid this mistake, pick popular apps and study how they differ. For example, you’ll notice that most Android apps have a drawer menu, whilst iOS apps tend to have a tab bar at the bottom.
Follow key design norms to enable basic comfort and enjoyment. Within this artistic boundary, you have unlimited space to create. If you really need to diverge from the patterns, it’s important to know the rules before you break them.
Create your own rules
Larger organisations may have thousands of different web and mobile experiences. Often, they are different from each other, but not necessarily distinct from their competitors.
To unify yet differentiate your portfolio, create your own design language rules.
Think of design language as the rules for creating. Colours, buttons and gestures should be standardised. More importantly, the flow of the UX should be consistent. In other words, if the user knows how to use your desktop site, they should know how to use your mobile site without confusion or handholding.
Curious to see what a design language looks like? Take a look at Google’s Material Design. You’ll notice that Google has carved its own language into a framework with discrete categories. Google’s framework includes guidelines for experience, visual, interaction, animation and front end design. The key is that new design languages should have both qualitative and quantitative rules.
Design for moments, not tasks
Is the user traveling or sitting at their desk? Are they sat on the couch at home or preparing to embark on a journey? When you imagine the context, you can design for the moment.
Ultimately, the mobile UX is a reflection of values. You should create mobile experiences to invoke surprise, joy, trust and respect – in that order. You can’t measure these quantitatively. When you’re aiming for respect, the mobile UX should become less about technology and more about empathy.
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