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Usability Week Recap: Day 2 – Mobile User Experience

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Usability Week Recap: Day 2 – Mobile User Experience

USABILITY WEEK 2011 Continued…
Last week, eVOC attended Usability Week 2011, a conference organized by the UX consulting and research firm Nielsen Norman Group (NNG). My colleague Phil and I split up to tackle full day tutorials on Mobile User Experience to learn more about mobile usability! Click here to read his post about Day 1 – ‘Mobile User Experience 1: Usability of Websites and Apps on Mobile Devices’.

My agenda for Day 2 included four cups of coffee and a full day tutorial titled ‘Mobile User Experience 2: Touchscreen Application Usability,’ led by Raluca Budiu, a User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. Besides Raluca, it seemed there were very few usability or customer experience professionals in the room, but mostly designers and developers hoping to get some direction on how to design for the mobile customer experience.

Overall, day 2 focused on the do’s and do not’s of mobile design. I was impressed with how many aspects of mobile design were covered, but can’t say I was surprised by many of the points made. Here I’d like to share with you 10 of the most important mobile best practices (in my opinion) pulled from the 147 provided by Nielsen Norman Group, along with my own 2 cents. So, let’s discuss mobile usability!

1.  “Detect if the user is coming from a mobile phone and redirect him or her.”

  • Put your best foot forward, why make users struggle with your regular site if you have a mobile one? That being said, it should be easy for the user to navigate from your mobile site to your regular site, vice versa.

2.  “Keep launch time to a minimum.”

  • There are hundreds of apps and endless ways to kill time on a mobile phone. If your mobile site or application takes forever to launch, what makes you think users will wait? The user may be intrigued enough to wait the first time they use the site or application, but after learning that it takes too long (for some it’s seconds) they may never return.  I know I’ve ditched slow launching apps, what about you?

3.  “Respect platform conventions.”

  • Throughout the tutorial, Raluca asked the audience to analyze various mobile sites and applications, asking us to identify the good and the bad aspects of the different designs. I found that many designs for the iPad failed to take advantage of its screen space, so make sure you respect platform conventions!

4.  “Avoid requiring users to login or register unless absolutely necessary.”

  • This is an issue of ease and time. If you are going to require a log-in, there better be a point. Is there valuable information that needs to be saved in the users’ account? Or are you just trying to build a mailing list?

5.  “Minimize user input by using techniques such as autocomplete, suggestions, sensible defaults (based on user history or current context).”

  • Using a small keypad or touchscreen is not as easy as typing on a keyboard, make life easier for your users by reading their minds! Instead of requiring lots of typing, I think giving suggestions or providing options that require a simple tap can make or break its usability.

6.  “Allow saving and sharing of content seen during session (e.g., email, Facebook, wish lists).

  • Personally, I find myself finishing most of productive activity that I started on my phone on my laptop. Being able to save drafts, lists, etc. to access at a later time or even on the regular website is beneficial to users.

7.  “Make sure that all content is available both in landscape and portrait mode.”

  • Remember, mobile devices are MOBILE, they move, thus your designs should work with the user and be able to move with the direction of the screen. This means portrait and landscape for phones and all four orientations for the iPad.

8.  “Make sure users can easily turn notifications on/off.”

  • Phones ring, vibrate, and ping enough – don’t bother your users.

9.  “Users should be able to use your app without reading instructions or a manual.”

  • If you want users to use your app, make it usable. It’s that simple.

10.  “Save state within app, so that if the user returns to a previously visited tab they see the same data they were looking at last time when they visited the tab.”

  • This is vital when it comes to mobile devices because users are constantly going back and forth between using their device as well as hopping from app to app. It’s important to remember how mobile devices are used differently than computers – mobile users are often on the move vs. sitting down.

As always with best practices, there are general rules and then rules that are specific to your industry, customer base, and media platform. If you are interested in testing the usability of your site or application on a mobile device, please visit our page on usability testing for mobile devices and don’t hesitate to contact us to find out more.