June 19, 2017 | Written by: Liz Alton
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Mobile app optimization is changing:
- Nearly 2 out of every 3 minutes online is spent on mobile devices (VentureBeat)
- And 90% of that time is spent within apps (Smart Insights)
And buyers — whether they’re consumers browsing shoes or B2B decision makers scanning your content while commuting — expect their experience to be fully optimized. The lack of a mobile-optimized digital experience sends visitors running to the competition, and not running back to you. Do you know what elements of the mobile app experience you need to focus on today? How can you optimize mobile UX to ensure the experience is evolving in line with changing technology and customer expectations?
To highlight the key themes happening in mobile optimization today, we reached out to five designers working across mobile – from leading educational institutions to cutting-edge agencies to get their thoughts.
1. UX gets back to its roots: customer-centric design
“The biggest trend I’m noticing throughout mobile design and development is a move away from hoping people engage with your application, and a move towards engaging with your audience via the mobile application,” says Noelle Seybert, social media manager at Pepperdine University. “Rather than the days of pushing information out to customers and target markets, marketers need to re-frame their approach and start creating mobile applications that allow customers to engage via the app. It’s a mix of push and pull, and no longer just a place for information to be stored and accessed.”
Seybert goes on to note that the “if you build it, they will come” mentality is archaic and ineffective. Instead, she says, “You must partner and listen to the wants and needs of your target audience in order to build an app they will want to use.” UX design was created to help put the customer perspective front and center in design. As audiences demand increasingly personalized and targeted experiences, UX allows marketers to take that to the next level in their app work.
2. App design becomes more immersive and real as technology emerges
The emergence of new technologies is pushing mobile UX to evolve, both in terms of greater user capabilities and design elegance. “Advancements in technology are enabling new ways of interacting with the user, which UX designers are taking advantage of. Augmented reality is popping up in a wide array of apps, from messaging apps such as Snapchat to visualization tools for everything from furniture to eyeglasses, to games like Pokemon GO!,” says Howard Tiersky, CEO and founder of FROM.
Tiersky notes that specific features are helping make mobile apps more responsive, intuitive and lifelike in the experiences they deliver. “Haptic feedback — the use of the sense of touch in a user interface design to provide information to an end user — is available on an increasing number of mobile devices. As a result, developers are finding ways to leverage this technology to make apps more intuitive to the touch,” he says. In addition, multitouch gestures — swipe left, swipe right, pinch, zoom, two-fingered drag and multitouch gestures for rotating — are familiar to a majority of users and expanding the UX designers’ toolkit.
3. Navigation tools are becoming more intuitive
Many users have experienced a rising frustration with small navigational menus in the upper right-hand corner of tiny app screens. Sylvia Vaquer, the creative director and a co-founder of SocioFabrica, a digital strategy/web development agency out of San Francisco, says, “More people are finally getting on the trend of adding important actions and buttons to a bottom navigational area, where thumbs can easily reach.”
From a design perspective, this trend showcases a broader movement toward intuitive design that treats the mobile environment as its own context:
- Where are the thumbs?
- What gestures are people likely to make if they’re using your app on the subway vs. in the grocery store? Where will their eyes be?
Core elements such as navigational tools are becoming more intuitive.
4. Conversational design and moving beyond the screen
UX design for mobile apps is reflecting a key trend: voice-based use, conversational design and moving beyond the screen. Apps paved the way for interaction with devices like Alexa and Google Home. Businesses increasingly leverage AI and predictive technology to deliver better experiences to customers. How are app designers thinking about that experience?
Diana Solatan, managing director of PLATFORM, an app design firm in San Francisco, says, “The most exciting trend in mobile UX to me right now is conversational design. We still have a difficult time communicating with our spouses and bosses, but we want a chatbot that gets us.”
UX designers are working to decode what the optimal experience is for users — in both conversational design and beyond the screen settings. It’s an emerging art, and it’s about determining what elements of voice-based control and interaction make users feel comfortable, streamline delivery and complete the necessary task.
5. Increase graphical diversity
Nik Slezkinsky, head of the UX design department at Devexperts, finds that one of the greatest trends is an increased focus on visual diversity. “We are noticing a subtle transfer from native approach in mobile app UX. It happens because a user wants more graphical diversity, and it is possible thanks to the latest processors with more powerful capacity.” As users increasingly become immersed in the app world, their craving for different experiences is leading UX designers to experiment with different options to see what’s possible. Slezkinsky notes that some of the latest trends include:
Transition animation between stages of an element and between windows
- Deep blur effect on background layers in iOS and Win 10
- Shift from flat design in control elements because of affordance problems: a user cannot match an appearance of an element to its functionality. Neo-skeuomorphism is on its way.
- Mobile ergonomics. Bigger screens necessitate a review of the layout approach: a user feels discomfort and wants longer fingers to reach some elements in an app.
As mobile apps continue to evolve, UX designers have new technologies and platforms to work with. Whether they’re using haptic feedback to make an app interaction more visceral or solving the problems of conversational design, today’s designers have significant experience design challenges to consider. Yet as mobile apps continue to become the platform du jour, marketers can leverage the evolving dialogue in this field to deliver better digital experiences to their customers.
How can you and your team gain valuable insights into your mobile app performance? Start the free 30-day trial of Watson Customer Experience Analytics Mobile Basics Edition now.
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