by Luis Alveart
Aware of the relevance of the mobile environment, some of the Zemoga team attended the online seminar: Interaction Design for Mobiles. The person in charge was Dani Armengol from Usolab, a firm located in Barcelona, Spain.
The colloquium was very revealing, as we learned interesting and surprising information about the growth of online purchases on mobile devices. We also learned that in the near future people will have more mobile hardware than they will desktop computers, so we need to be prepared to respond to that trend and offer better solutions and more engaging experiences.
We reviewed the main characteristics of mobile devices and how people actually use them. Sometimes we just forget the context in which users interact with our mobile web sites and applications, and that user experience is something that we always have to keep in mind. So we were shown important inputs that can be decisive in the success or failure of those solutions.
Armengol highlighted a clever quote from Barbara Ballard, which says: “Mobile refers to the user, and not the device or the application”.
After that, we received special information about architect principles and interaction and navigation patterns. Some of the recommendations were:
– Give more relevance to content instead of offering too many options on screen.
– Avoid branding abuse. We can use corporate colors to create a relationship instead of overloading layout with logos.
– Don’t forget new user’s scenarios. Don’t be afraid of using scroll and the linear navigation.
We have to determine the main objective of our site or application, in order to know which options have priority and what kind of information or actions are the best to build a good user experience. So keeping this in mind, we can take better decisions and build a structure focused on tasks instead of just content.
In terms of interaction, we explored different ideas. In plain sight they may not look so relevant, but going deeper they could enhance the experience and decrease the learning curve. Some of those tips are:
– At the bottom of the screen, always leave cut elements, so users can tell that they can find more info by scrolling down.
– If you are offering additional functionalities depending on the view mode (portrait or landscape) or gestures, don’t expect that users always find it by themselves, at least notify them.
– Be aware of buttons sizes, most of the apps and sites use smaller sizes than the minimum required.
– Don’t put opposite actions close to each other, always keep a safe padding area between buttons, that way we assure users don’t tap on the wrong option.
– Whenever possible use visual feedback (by alerts, disclaimers, confirmations and transitions), audio feedback (by earcons) and physical feedback (by vibrator); users always need a response from the device, that is how we reduce frustration levels.
We can find a lot of trends and pattern libraries for mobile devices on Internet; having that kind of information is very helpful when we are defining the experience, but although people are used to some platforms as iPhone and Android, and they are expecting things work in a similar way, we always need to ask ourselves if that path is the most efficient and practical. Users always will appreciate innovation on mobile experiences. Just remember, if you are innovating, be sure of improving what already exist and that your new ideas are easier to learn, if not, you will take the risk of losing users.
Commonly, user experience should be defined depending on the context, goals and users needs. Working for mobile devices, adds an extra layer that we need to consider even before our first sketch; we need to think different and bring approaches adapted for this environment.