Usability, Mobile For The 21st Century

Usability, Mobile and Your Future

This should come as a surprise to no one reading blogs like this one. Mobile is your future. Everything points to this. Adoption rates, bandwidth access, changing mobile plans from major carriers, technology evolution in devices, prices decreases and so many more signals all tell us this change is upon us. It’s been known for some time that mobile queries will outpace desktop queries shortly.

Today’s businesses are seeing this shift. More business and traffic is coming from tablets, phablets and smart phones than ever. Transaction completions are on the rise, and this isn’t just a “local” phenomenon.

In the next year, if you’re not already designing to serve people in the mobile environment, you’ll be falling behind those who are.

And while this is going to come to pass, simply splashing up an m-dot site won’t get you back on the curve. No, you’ll have to do a bit more than that. Which brings us to usability.

People talk about this, but so few businesses actually invest the money in it. And it’s easy to see why. Some people think its glorified design work. Others have simply never explored the concept past the theory stage. From personal experience I can tell you it makes an actual difference to the success of a product.

Knowing mobile is so important, now is the time to bring in the user experience experts to ensure you get the most from your investment. And while learning about mobile trends and understanding traffic patterns across your own website can be handled by most people, usability testing and user experience-centric design does take an experts touch.

Here are some tidbits gleaned from Margaret Gould Stewart’s recent Ted talk. She’s the lady who runs the product design team at Facebook…and before that, at Youtube…and before that…at Google. There’s a pretty good chance she has some good advice about UX design then. Based on experience, not guesswork.

  • There is no blueprint for design at scale – you have to test, learn and iterate as you go sometimes
  • Small things matter a great deal
  • The Facebook LIKE button took 280 hours to redesign. Sounds like a lot, but consider it’s seen over 22 billion times a day
  • Design with data, but follow human feelings and behaviors
  • Introduce changes to users very carefully
  • Be sure to explain to users why change is happening
  • You have to design for where people are, not where you are – design to your users
  • Good design requires audacity…and humility

In the race to keep up, or get ahead, it sometimes happens that you miss opportunities. But discovering opportunities through usability testing on the way to creating a better mobile experience for your visitors is completely in your control. It may require making some changes in areas you’d planned to invest in, but well worth it.

And if you really want to start thinking of the future, start wondering what your site looks like when viewed in emerging technologies like wearables, flexible plastic screens, in-car devices and early augmented reality tools like Glass.

Just a couple of years ago, you needed to account for big screen TVs and gaming consoles brought the wed directly to TV. Devices dedicated to this exist today, but humanity’s desire to “so mobile” is poised to shift this landscape. Wearables are the new future, and they get closer to us every day.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager