It’s not exactly news that usability matters. In fact ‘user experience’ is often the difference between success and failure in not only mobile, or indeed digital, but any form of business. By way of example, consider the extraordinary fact that up to 95% of returned goods work perfectly. Of course the truth is that they don’t work perfectly at all - if we take the initial user experience and getting started documentation to be a part of the product.
But usability is particularly important in mobile, and there are two fundamental - and related - reasons why that is so.
The first is obvious: mobile has a small screen, which places greater demands on the designer and user. There is very little redundancy in mobile design, and less opportunity to present alternative navigational structures for example. There is less space for contextual help, and at each stage hard decisions will have to be made around what can and cannot be included.
But to some extent that’s all par for the course for the UX designer. The second point is more complex and unique to mobile…
Understanding Mobile Behavior
For a variety of reasons, mobile users expect things to happen quickly and easily - to a far greater extent than they would in other channels. Those reasons include the immediate, impulsive nature of the mobile experience, the behaviors that we pick up from third-party mobile experiences (particularly social media) and the still-out-there idea that if something gets too complicated we can always ‘do it on the desktop’ later.
That being the case, it is incredibly important for mobile apps in particular to be designed to support fast, easy success. The games industry learnt this some time ago, by understanding that the perfect mobile game is playable in the time spent queuing for coffee. That fundamentally re-imagined the playing experience - because console gaming had seen long playing sessions as a goal and built around that objective.
The same logic applies in every industry. If your customers are failing to make an impulse purchase on mobile because things get too fiddly or take too long, I would not be assuming they are actually going to complete that transaction on desktop. Some will, but many will not: the moment will pass and they will move on, and that’s not a loss in revenue that is sustainable.
How To Deliver Super-Easy Mobile
So if UX matters - what do we do about it? Well firstly, let’s remember that many techniques that worked online are still relevant to the mobile app. Foremost among those would be A/B testing: using real user data to inform design decisions, and identify the approaches that deliver the highest task completion rates possible. Similarly, a heavy reliance on mobile-specific messaging - that is prompted based on previous knowledge of each specific user - can be an effective way to provide all important contextual help without disrupting the flow for everyone.
But in addition, it is clear that experience in the broadest sense is behind mobile success. As in the games industry, consider how your product or service can be delivered in a different, faster, cleaner and more elegant way - and then test it against your existing approach. That is the way to real mobile success.