WIAD video talk: Navigating the Mobile World
Merlin has more than five years’ experience in designing for mobile devices, so he decided to share a few thoughts on our World IA Day in Zagreb about the ups and downs of navigating through mobile applications.
Increased amount of information and smaller screen sizes
Earlier this year, Gartner published detailed statistics in which they stated that in 2013 people around the world bought six times as many mobile devices as they did personal computers (PCs and notebooks combined).
Four years ago, Eric Schmidt said that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation ‘til 2003. Today, we probably generate the same amount of information within just a few hours.
In today’s world, the paradox we are facing is that the amount of information is increasing exponentially, while the screens we are looking at most of the day are getting smaller and smaller. That’s a challenge for the design world and we as designers need to rethink how we’ll solve interaction and navigation problems and improve user experience.
The online publishing game is all about volume right now. It’s not about quality and originality. When volume is your organizing principle, you take shortcuts. Ripping off others’ work is simply the norm now. It is absolutely effective, and it is absolutely depressing.
If you are interested in finding out more about current online information statistics, you should probably go ahead and take a look at Brad Frost’s “Death To Bullshit” video talk. His slideshare presentation can be found here. I had the pleasure of seeing that presentation live at Reasons to be Creative last year, and I can say that the numbers are impressive, but at the same time really scary.
Search. Navigate. Enjoy.
When you need to find some answers on the internet, the first thing you do is open a browser and search for the content you need. As the professor of Educational Technology, Sugata Mitra said in the short documentary “Future Learning” – one of the key things in the future will be the ability to search for the information a) as fast as you can, and b) as accurately as possible with the given technology. The skill to do it successfully will be crucial for future generations.
Once you’ve reduced information noise to a level you feel comfortable with, the next step is to navigate through the website or mobile application. The user interface is there to help you find the exact answer to your questions. The more intuitive interaction and navigation is, the better the user experience.
Guidelines are there to be respected
In the mobile world, hardware and software manufacturers are trying to unify and stabilise mobile experiences as much as possible. However, different operating systems have different guidelines for designers and developers (e.g. Android Design Guidelines and iOS Human Interface Guidelines).
Enchant me, Simplify my life, and Make me amazing.
Creative Vision of Android Design Guidelines
Using these guidelines and respecting users’ habits and expectations and having in mind their best interests and needs, you can pretty much be sure that you’ll solve their problems in a positive way.
Information organisation on different platforms
In his talk, Merlin describes types of interactions and navigation between the two most popular mobile platforms – iOS and Android. With the latest versions of these operating systems, these two platforms are closer to one another than ever before. Of course, we are speaking here about visual user interface style and interaction design in general.
In the past, the practice was to develop an iOS application and then port it to Android devices, which was completely wrong from an user experience point of view. Today, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and other applications that are most frequently used on mobile platforms do not make such drastic mistakes with user interface design and overall user experience as they did two years ago.
However, there are some bad practices in the world of mobile apps, and there are solutions to each and every one of them. Merlin covered a few of them by challenging design to be closer to the guidelines on each of the mobile platforms. By reducing visual noise and focusing on single and separated tasks, he created a more intuitive and consistent user experience.
Merlin has posted an in-depth blog post “Redesigning Skype for Android Chat” in case you want to find out more.
Every day there’s more information out in the world and it is happening like never before. The future brings us new challenges regarding how to display and interact with all the data around us. Mobile manufactures will probably continue in their effort to unify experiences across the platforms.
If you are not sure how to solve a mobile design problem, take a look at the guidelines first. However, designing only by platform guidelines is not enough. You need to know your users, manage their expectations, as well as track and analyse their behaviour so you can improve overall experience and user satisfaction.
It’s the disease you have to fight in any creative field: ease of use.
Design the application in such a way that you would be satisfied using it. Small details do matter in the long run.
Deviate with purpose, not just for the sake of being “innovative”. Keep innovative user interfaces at the level where most of the users will be comfortable interacting with them.
As my role here at UX Passion over the past few years has mostly focused on designing mobile user experiences, I found Merlin’s talk very interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy it too and in case you need more resources or have any questions, feel free to let me know.