Focus Less on Flashiness, More on Usability

James Hoshor | January 6, 2017 | Mobile Strategy

As a mobile strategist and solutions architect I have worked with many organizations on their mobile initiatives over the last decade. One of the most persistent mistakes we still see is companies who fail to focus on usability and continue to mobile apps as if they were desktop or web applications. In other words, the UI/UX incorporates a lot of graphics, animation, and complex workflows that require more text fields and manual data entry than is necessary, or desired.

focus on usabilityRemember the old K.I.S.S. design principle (Keep it simple stupid) originally used by the U.S. Navy in 1960? The KISS principle states most systems work best if they are kept simple. Therefore, simplicity should always be a key design goal. Unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

Too many companies still think employee productivity, customer satisfaction or user experience is improved by simply porting desktop features and functions over to mobile devices. Or they believe a lot of cool animations and graphics means a better app for consumers. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

focus on usability

Complex manual interaction                                          Busy UI—hard to navigate

Stop and think about the mobile apps or websites you use most. Why do you use them? Now think about the ones you have deleted or stopped using. Again, ask yourself why.

The most popular apps are those that are easy to use and allow users to quickly access the information or service they need at that moment. This may sound obvious, but I wouldn’t be writing this blog if all our clients were already delivering great mobile user experiences. Also, I’d be out of a job.

As we enter the new year, here are some prescriptions for ensuring you deliver great mobile experiences.

  1. Incorporate UX design into your mobile strategy. With more businesses realizing the importance of delivering great user experiences, UI/UX designers should be more involved upfront in the development of your mobile strategy and in the continuous delivery of your mobile solutions. UI/UX design should not just be thought of as look and feel, but as an integral element of the mobile solution. Involving UI/UX designers upfront ensures the right questions about user scenarios and personas get asked, and that clarity around user engagement is achieved.
  2. Keep the UI/UX simple. Whether you use internal designers or outsource your UI/UX design, be sure your designers are following current design principles and best practices. For example, your designers should be using UI pattern libraries and style guides specific to mobile. Designers must take into consideration multiple device types and form factors when designing for mobile. Never assume the same UI assets you use for your website will render well on mobile phones, tablets or wearable devices—they won’t. Clutter is anathema to clean UI/UX design so in your mobile designs it’s important remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Some examples of how to remove clutter are: use icons (it’s okay to include text labels) or implement progressive disclosure links that provide the option to view more.
  3. focus on usability

    Icons with text labels

    focus on usability

    Progressive disclosure

  4. Break tasks into bite size chunks. Simply replicating the desktop flow will result in too much complexity on a mobile device. Rather, keep each step as focused and as simple as possible. As a frequent traveler, I need an app for hotels and airlines that makes check-in easy and simple. Hilton’s mobile app provides the cleanest check-in. Each step has been broken into single screens that display big icons or buttons, allowing me to quick view, tap and navigate to the next step. You might think, “But now the user has to navigate through a lot of screens, why not do everything one screen?” While the screen count is higher, the user is able to navigate effortlessly through the process, instilling a feeling of accomplishment and making for a far more satisfying experience. We’ve all filled-out single-screen forms before—and they’re terrible, often requiring users to squint to read the text or scroll endlessly to complete the required steps.
  5. focus on usability

  6. Prototyping separates good from great. We highly recommend companies use prototyping as part of their mobile solution delivery process. Prototyping is fast becoming an integral part of the standard enterprise design process as it lets you and your team review concepts and share feedback in the early project stages. A working, interactive prototype of your mobile app or desktop software provides all involved parties the opportunity to identify any shortcomings in the flow and usability of the design before making a more significant development investment. Over 30 prototyping tools have launched in the last couple years, evidence of strong demand. So if you haven’t incorporated prototyping into your software delivery life cycle, you should certainly do so in 2017.

The bottom line is that mobile will continue to grow, playing an ever-larger role in our professional and personal lives. In an age in which more and more of your competitors are starting to build (or continuing to expand) their mobile portfolios, applications that are poorly designed and difficult to use will appear ever more amateurish and out of step.

To ensure you deliver great mobile experiences, leverage the right tools, and produce consistent, effective and usable mobile solutions, check out our Mobile UI/UX Design Kickstart. Then give Propelics a call.

James Hoshor

James is a Senior Mobile Strategist & Solutions Architect for Propelics. He has over 20 years experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, marketing and business development in information technology. For the past 10 years James has worked with many clients across multiple industries, including financial services, insurance, retail and manufacturing, approach mobile strategically to identify and deliver solutions that result in market differentiating solutions and great user experiences.

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