Ubiquitous access to the Internet has forever changed consumer behavior. Brands can no longer expect that their desktop experiences will satisfy, or that they will even be accessed from the desktop. One thing that brands can count on is that mobile platforms will be the primary driver of consumption moving forward.
The mobile device is no longer just for voice or email, rather it is the consumer’s constant companion; delivering entertainment, news, social interactions, personal management, health advice, etc. As consumers increasingly turn toward mobile as their primary source of information and interaction, brands must continue to evolve and deploy content via mobile or risk losing consumer engagement.
Delivering an exceptional mobile experience is not a future state issue. With current projections showing that by Q2 of 2013 the installed base of smartphones and tablets will exceed that of PCs, delivering a mobile experience is an issue for TODAY.
Designing for this new reality requires more than type of content, how to deploy that content across both desktop and mobile, and how the consumer will interact with that content must all be considered to deliver an exceptional experience.
The right content in the right context
To create an experience that meets consumer expectations, marketers need to adopt a content strategy that focuses on MOBILE FIRST. Designing for mobile provides many user-centered and functional benefits. The primary benefit is that it forces the designer to place the user, their context, at the center of the design strategy. Designing for mobile first keeps design focused on the best way for the user to consume the content while providing simple and efficient interactions that are appropriate for a mobile context. ????????????????????????????????
Graceful Degradation (the process of removing functionality) and Progressive Enhancement (the process of gradually adding functionality) are terms often associated with translating an experience from Desktop to Mobile or Mobile to Desktop. The problem with this view is that mobile devices and desktop computers are used in very different ways that result in completely different experiences. Although this can work for many instances, a more likely situation is that mobile will be the primary form of interaction for consumers and they will want a customized experience. Rather than forcing feature parity across platforms, brands need to focus on delivering the right content, in the right context, in order to successfully deliver the right experience for each platform.
Author Once. Deliver Everywhere.
In this new world where consumers interact with a brand across multiple channels, it is important to deliver a seamless experience between mobile, desktop, and all other devices the brand uses. Although each channel requires a customized experience, this does not mean that the channels cannot share assets. Brand identity should be maintained through visual design and brand voice, while content should be produced in a way that allows deployment and customization for each channel.
Content should be developed for display across a wide variety of devices and channels. To accomplish this, there must be a distinction between the Presentation Layer and the Data Layer; the Data Layer being responsible for storing all assets associated with a piece of content and the Presentation Layer intelligently choosing those assets and formatting them for the viewing device.
The separation of presentation and data layers allows content to be deployed instantly to different channels without additional rework. Publish once and no matter how the consumer views the content, it is device appropriate. Storing content in this manner also enables quick deployment through new channels, as only an addition to the presentation layer is required. This allows a brand to be prepared for the evolution of existing channels and the advent of new channels.
Accounting for interaction
It is important to note that mobile interactions take place within the world, constantly competing with the real world for the attention of the consumer. Therefore, to design the best possible experience, it is imperative that brands understand their users’ contexts to anticipate their needs and constraints.
Speed is a design principle that arises from the mobile context and must be applied to all mobile experiences. As mobile is constantly competing with reality, the ability to quickly grab the consumers’ attention and allow them to accomplish their goal is imperative. The use of speed here is not referring to the data connection but to the amount of time it takes to complete a task and the perception of speed to the consumer. Navigation should use a context based information. The interface should have a singular focus, presenting content with a simple and direct visual presentation. Brands can also accomplish speed through anticipating the consumers’ needs and using coding techniques to proactively load content in the background (e.g. loading a featured news article in the background so that it is immediately available when the user selects the link).
Mobile devices are amazingly rich with native device features like GPS, camera, accelerometer, mapping, microphones, etc. The ability to identify a song while in a crowded restaurant or the ability to snap a photo of a check to make a deposit rather than go to a physical branch – these experiences are what the mobile consumer expects. They are the kind of experiences that make mobile such a remarkable platform. Brands need to leverage these native features to provide useful and exciting functionality to their consumers.
Enjoyment is one of the most often overlooked principles of design but one of the most important. With the advent of mobile, brands have the ability to engage consumers with experiences that are fun, exciting, and above all enjoyable. By providing experiences that are consumers ready to embrace their offerings.
Not just in 2014 and beyond, but today.