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2 Keys For A Unified User Experience

Mobile App Development
Technology, Information and Media
Users expect the world from mobile app experiences. Within that little screen, most people assume a seamless, visually pleasing flow awaits. Apps must respond intuitively and provide just the right amount of information. Great design, begets smart function. When it comes to a truly unified user experience, consistency and customization (of both design and function) conduct the orchestra side-by-side.

1. Consistency: More Retention, Less Confusion

The value of consistency within user experience holds water even for the most quickly evolving tech trends. It’s not about enforcing or adhering to routines. The concept of routine often has negative connotations of boredom and disengagement. Consistency, however, tells a different, more applicable story for user experience best practices.

Interaction Design Foundation researcher Euphemia Wong suggests,

Users should not have to spend time wondering whether different words, interactions, or actions mean the same thing within the context of your product. Confusion occurs when people are unable to ‘piece together’ information…obstructing them from achieving something.

Flow Between Operating Systems

Each operating system has its own native response. For instance, mobile app development for iOS or Android is bound by two different sets of restrictions. These constraints exist either because of the SDK or platform capabilities or as a result of the app store’s own restrictions. Either way, users have built-in sets of reflexes that development must activate. Easier said than done.

It’s important to have an upfront discussion with your UX design team around how they can incorporate common elements that will work well across both platforms. User acceptance testing can help satisfy these previously mentioned user reflexes, so your mobile app experience can be enjoyed as soon as users download it (even if they’ve never seen it before).

Drive Action With Brand Aesthetics

Every touchpoint in your app should look and sound consistent in order to activate your brand to its fullest potential. Color palette, typography, logo–these things form the foundation for visual brand identity. Imagery, composition, and visual information hierarchies, however, are what bring the basic elements to life, creating a user experience.

The aesthetic of your brand should be clear across the entire user experience, across different mediums and on different devices. When customers easily recognize and form a visual connection with your brand, it builds trust, preference, and loyalty–in that order.

Recognizable, consistent tone, known as “ brand voice”, guides users through their experiences. But, much like visual identity, a clear, distinct voice needs to be based on user behaviors and trends. Creating a clear customer persona based on user data can help brands guide their voices and make informed messaging decisions.

Move Across All Devices

Continuity of experience is especially important when user interactions must translate from platform to platform, or device to device. For example, when making a purchase through an app, the status of the order must show up accurately, in real-time, at every touchpoint. Whether customers browse items on their phone and decide to checkout later from their desktop (or vise versa), an abandoned cart should be visible across all devices.

Manual is the enemy. Solution: single sign-on. When users switch from email to text, their information needs to come along for the ride. A single sign-on is a cornerstone functionality within the online marketplace. It not only provides convenience and security, but it also delivers tangible value across the entire app experience. Additionally, as a mutually-beneficial feature, a single sign-on can help businesses track customer behavior in order to better customize future app iterations.

Delight Varied Interaction Modes

Similar to varied learning methods, user interaction preferences run the gamut from voice commands to active screen gestures to sitting with a laptop/desktop. Each approach offers certain advantages, and many people have adapted to using more than one.

The differences between voice and visual design interactive experiences demonstrate the challenges developers face in creating a unified experience. Voice works well in a simple, direct use case when users are looking for efficient delivery. For example, it’s easy to instruct Alexa to order more diapers or shampoo. Voice ordering speeds up requests for a certain brand, or a specific item.

Visual displays offer more of a browsing or “window shopping” experience. Customers take advantage of this method when they want to explore and compare a range of new products and styles. Visual experiences allow users to gather information and enjoying the discovery process that may expand their eventual purchasing decision.

Regardless of interaction mode, a unified user experience delivers consistent design and functionality for users who want it now, or want it all.

2. Customization: Test. Learn. Repeat.

Personalization matters. Brand activation happens faster and better when customers experience instant gratification. Users want to see a reflection of their tastes and preferences the moment they start interacting. Simply stated, apps need to serve up products and services that make good sense to the user.

According to the Forbes Agency Council,

Whether it is an experiential event or access to services to help them achieve their personal goals, we focus first on what customers tell us they would like more of from our brands.

When Nike let users to design, share, and purchase their ideal shoe, an impressive 8% carried through to make purchases. Customizing your app is a two-way street: it is delivered by your understanding of your individual users, and it also offers the user an opportunity to control their own experience.

Collect Customer Information

Marketing success is increasingly data driven, and even more conceptual efforts are finding ways to be converted into scalable metrics. New app builds come standard with data collection wizardry. Deeper, more actionable insights into behavior patterns and pain points come from persistent data analysis.

Customization is personalization in practice. Users are delighted by proactive experiences that show initiative. Reorder capabilities, for example, allow users to accommodate their unique product/service usage cadences. The more chameleon the app design and features, the more quickly it paints a parking space on users’ home screens.

Offer Users More Control

Customizable themes and colors are fun, but typically users truly connect with apps that offer intuitive core functions they can easily control. There’s a big difference between snoozing an alarm you set yourself, versus a system-set alarm waking you when it decides it’s time to get up. Push notifications present a great opportunity for user modification and control.

Learning that a package has been delivered to their door is a different level of intensity that learning that a new app update is available. Push notifications should be timely reminders and confirmations, not a swarm of notification gnats. People relate to their devices differently. One person may want a text alert, while another may prefer an email. A great user experience leverages the customization that serves the right information, in real time, in the right way.

Unified in User Happiness

People don’t object to anything that looks or feels great – emerging technology is no exception. Consistency and customization work together to create a satisfying, delightful user experience, regardless of their unique, demanding expectations. Activating these two principles through design and functionality construct a truly unified portal between brands and users.

An app is a vehicle that transports users effortlessly between the online and offline worlds. As complicated and involved as that sounds, at the end of the day, it’s all just delivering consistent, customized communication to people who find value in it.

Thaddeus Ternes

Thaddeus Ternes worked at Mutual Mobile as an iOS Architect.

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