The concept of mobile apps has greatly evolved: with the first apps, developers tried to replicate the same experience of a desktop but, given the limited resources, the results were pretty different and, in some cases, disappointing. A more modern approach is to create mobile apps that offer the experience of a website, but greatly enhanced: less features but crafted, refined and flawless.
Developers normally work in an optimal environment with high-tech equipment and super fast broadband connections; they often forget that their app will be used in totally different conditions. Phones are not meant to be constantly connected to the Wi-Fi, rather to be used outdoors with a mobile network, whose quality is sometimes questionable. Developers should keep an eye on heavy network requests and be in general respectful of users’ bandwidth. Automatically triggering a 300 Mb download while the user is on a 3G network (and it can be worse, you know), blocking the app until the download is complete, is a sure fire way to lose a customer or visitor.
It may seem quite obvious, but in a mobile interface we cannot rely on hover-based interactions. It is quite a significant loss since on a website a lot of useful microinteractions happen on this level. So it becomes important to have a way to enable users to easily spot the clickable elements. Since mobile interfaces are less cluttered than their desktop counterparts, we could simply work on elements’ color; in that case consistency is mandatory, otherwise users will likely be confused.
As mentioned before, not only developers and tech companies’ CEOs think that we are always on a broadband connection, they also seem to assume that we have a personal Wi-Fi connection that follows us everywhere. Plane trips, network blackouts, public wi-fi channel saturation, data plan exhaustion, no signal coverage areas, etc. are simply not taken into account by them. Some mobile applications have network-based core features and we can’t do that much to make them usable offline, but in other cases there’s simply no need to make our app nonfunctional at all. Remember that some data can be saved for later synchronizing (Shazam and Soundhound will save your song searches until a network is available again).
Many surveys agree that annoying notifications are one of the main reason (if not the main reason) why people uninstall applications. That does not mean that you have to give up such a powerful feature but that you need to have a careful approach. Send out just something that is really useful, since nobody is happy to be distracted from what they are doing just to be informed that they haven't used the app in the past 24 hours and that something wonderful has happened in the meanwhile. If your app has a point in sending out many messages, a good idea is to create a news feed and leave push notifications only for the most urgent ones.
There are hundreds of thousands free apps out there, people download and try them, but you have just seconds to convince users to not delete your amazing app. They have a choice to make and they just don't have patience for a poorly designed app that doesn't fulfill their needs. Therefore be careful in the first ten precious seconds that users grant you: this is a make it or break it moment.
There’s still a debate around whether an app should present a splash screen or push the user directly to the core. Splash screens may be a nice way to present the product but they should display themselves for no more than three seconds and it would be nice to show some kind of microinteraction in the meantime, like a progress bar, so the user is certain not to be stuck. But if one really wants to kick out a user from their app, there’s no better way to force them to register before allowing them even the slightest glimpse at the interface. There is much more awareness now about the importance of revealing our personal data, and users, before doing that, want to see what they are paying for (be it money or their personal information). Even if data protection is not one’s highest concern, the signup process is always long and boring. So we need a good reason to invite users to do that: let’s help them taste what we have to offer first.
We hope that this article has been useful reading for you – we here at Infopark enjoyed writing it and had so many ideas and more tips to share, that we have a second part of this article coming out soon. So, stay tuned and check back again soon for more mobile UX tips!