Creating Mobile Content with User Interface & Experience in Mind
This is a guest post by Patrick Charuza.
In the present era of digital versatility, desktop and landlines have nearly become archaic, with Millennials boldly retrieving mobile from their pockets and placing them on the pedestal of web dominance. 76% of this young demographic owns a smartphone, yet only 73% owns a desktop or laptop computer. This 3% gap may not seem like much, but it goes to indicate that what can dwell in our attire will defeat the burden of excess baggage and inconvenience over time. The youth are bound to inherit the market, and they prefer to crown ease of access over increased functionality, at least when it comes to the basics of web browsing and app experiences.
To highlight how seemingly elitist modern tech consumers are, many users won’t recommend a company with a lackluster mobile website, regardless of how effective that website's services truly are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and market app beholders only see skin deep. In other words: if you want to succeed, you need a great mobile user experience, and that comes through great user interfaces. User Interface & Experience are especially important for startups, because knowing who your audience is and how your demographic will be be viewing your content will let you better present yourself to prospective customers.
UX: User Experience
The User Experience (UX) is, simply put, the way using a technology makes people feel. Whether it’s the intimacy of reconnecting with a childhood friend or simply the taste of ice cream on your tongue, the goal of the UX is to conjure a feeling of welcome and solace that everyone can embrace. It's context-dependent and will often change with the times, much like a nomad adapting to the climate of the land. Just like people come and go, the chapters of tech interface turn ever so frequently, outdating itself, even slightly, to maintain its competitive integrity. Great UX is an engulfing template, and with the rise of mobile, we should only see an increase in contextual UX on the smartphone and tablet platform.
At one point in time, the GPS was a tool utilized by drivers only for travel purposes. The User Experience injects this privilege into the routine of daily life. An example might be location-based experiences. Many mobile apps and websites now collect data based on the user's geographic location, recommending destinations, alerting users to what their friends have done in the area, and awarding points. In a sense, this technology has expanded our horizon of awareness, without retracting our freedom of possibilities.
As the scope of technology broadens, it also becomes more and more infused in people’s lives, making the UX more of an intimate aspect of life rather than a detached chore. As people get more comfortable with integrating their technology with their daily habits, we’ll see an increase in highly contextual user experience features -- after all, the more personalized the experience seems, the more likely people are to connect with it. This has a two-pronged effect. From the vantage point of the average customer, there would be a spike of approval for UX for making the mundane more appeasing. From a business standpoint, approval would increase as well because incorporation of such applications can only expand the profit margin (and by profit, we, of course, typically mean find things they want to spend money on). As a startup, having a great user experience could really make you stand out from the competition. That being said, here’s what you need to know.
Fundamentals of UX:
- Audience: User Experience is, of course, all about the user. If you don’t take the time to research your audience's behavior, you will ultimately fail on delivering a useful and memorable mobile experience. This is perhaps the most important aspect of UX design. Data should be collected in the initial early stages of a project, and continued to be analyzed at regular intervals, making necessary adjustments along the way. Tracking a user’s location, age, occupation, interests and other online activities may seem invasive, but can be very useful in creating a specifically engaging and pleasurable experience for your mobile visitors. Using appropriate information architecture helps enhance functionality, helping users find the right information or complete their desired tasks as quickly as possible. Besides the general information, it’s crucial to know how users navigate your website or app. Mobile users are always on the go and constantly interrupting their sessions with phone calls, text messages, and other applications. We know that mobile users have certain behaviors that may change over time. Identifying and anticipating these patterns can make all the difference when designing for a mobile experience. If you find that your visitors are hunting for a specific piece of information, then move it to a more accessible place. The data doesn’t lie. Build your design in favor of the user.
- Content: Mobile poses many challenges for UX designers -- especially when it comes to shrinking the content of a desktop experience to fit a smaller screen. With minimal real estate, the questions of what to include and exclude come up more than often. Keep things clear and simple when designing UX for mobile. Guide the user from point “A” to “B” and eliminate unnecessary elements.
- Engagement: One main goal in UX design is to attract the user and hold their attention. Simplifying the content, while also engaging the user by integrating mobile-specific features, makes for a more enjoyable experience. Remember: smartphones are used as a form of entertainment, as well as a functional tool. Giving the user control over multimedia content is important in the world of mobile, because it’s so difficult to anticipate mobile context (the environment or circumstance of use). Using geolocation, barcode scanning, camera utility, click-to-call elements, et cetera, enhances UX immensely. Offering creative, purposeful and human-like interactions are a great way to satisfy the needs and desires of your target audience.
UI: User Interface
User Experience, of course, is highly influenced by the User Interface (UI). This is an intersection of industrial design, information architecture, visual design, and interaction design, which forms a crucial component of the overall User Experience. Hypothetically, let’s say the developer is a seamstress. The garment that she would be sewing would serve as the User Interface. The designs and architecture would be reflected in every stitch in the garment. The material, color of the dye, and patterns on the final item would be the User Experience. When you wear the completed item, how it feels and what it looks like encompasses the purpose of the User Experience. It's important to remember that the only goal of UI is to set the foundation for the UX. One is clearly meant to assist the other in giving users the most quality for their time. While people might not remember the substance of your app or service (sorry, but you know how attention spans are these days), they are very likely to remember the way it looks, and if you make them feel something, they are more likely to remember the whole thing, return, and refer. If properly utilized, it has the potential to take your startup to the next level. With that in mind, there are several fundamental principles to UI design that you must familiarize yourself with.
Fundamentals of UI:
- Simplicity: First, as with most information design, simplicity is key. When you open up an email, it’s natural to feel more at ease looking at separated lines rather than a block of text. The same can be said for manuals or words on a chalkboard. Information must be presented in such a way that it doesn't baffle users, and it still looks nice. Think, for example, of the way that scenes wipe from one to another in Star Wars (or The Hidden Fortress, or Buck Rogers before that). I read in a science book that beauty is not only associated with simplicity, but that it is ingrained in it as well. One trend that could take off this year is the UI Card. This layout is being used by Pinterest, as well as several other companies, and it's got serious oomph as far as clarity and memorability go.
- Typography: The font you use (its size, color, spacing, etc.) can make or break the design and success factor of your UI. A good example would have bold headlines that stand out, and copy that is easy to read on a small screen. Type is an aspect of visual appeal, that visitors subconsciously evaluate, and can be a deciding factor on whether they take the time to read or bounce from your mobile app or website. Font matters simply because it puts a voice to your brand and shows personality. Make sure the type on a mobile screen stays consistent and only varies when necessary. Font pairing is a true art form and an important aspect of any design, especially when it comes to mobile UI.
- Navigation: A user’s journey through your interface should flow and be easy to navigate. Creating the efficient navigation cues and buttons are key in mobile development. A great way to execute this is to keep navigation gestures simple and use icons instead of text. Icons increase scannability and aid the user in accessing the page they’re looking for, all while making the UI more attractive and unique.
Just 15 years ago, at the turn of the millennium, the idea that smartphones would be our primary way to access the internet would be scoffed at and dismissed. Today, it’s the norm and the limited screen size only means that both User Interface & Experience play a much more important role in developing your startup’s content marketing.
Startups: what have you learned about how your audience uses mobile -- and how has that impacted your content marketing? Tell us in the comments below.
Patrick is a Digital Marketer for Fueled, an award-winning app development and design agency. His main areas of interest are primarily mobile technology, mobile development, UX/UI, and the social implications of those developments.
[Photo credit: UsersThink curated collection]