Experiencing Mobile Application User Experience

Kevin Richardson, Ph.D. / Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The key to designing a mobile application is not how good it looks or how cool it’s state transitions are (think deleting an email and watching it crumple up into a ball and arc into the trash can icon). It’s important to look professional and feel current but these serve primarily to entice users to download your application from amongst the thousands of others. The degree to which your application is useful and usable is what ensures your application won’t be deleted after the first few minutes. When an application meets a need, takes advantage of the native strengths afforded by a mobile form factor, and designs for the mobile context of use, your audience will say about your application, “Why can’t all apps be this good?”

Here are a few applications that I personally use on my iPhone because their UX teams spent the time, upfront, to understand what folks like me are doing and designed something to help us do those things quickly and easily.

 

clip_image002Clear

Clear is a beautiful little app that helps you create lists. Big deal, you say? It is. First, there are no buttons. The application was built using native gestures – pinch, swipe, tap, shake. Second, the creation and deletion of new lists and items takes advantage of existing interaction models – no need to learn unique gestures or interaction models.

 

clip_image004Zite

News aggregator applications are neither new nor scarce but Zite rises above the rest. Why? A clean interface allows me to quickly select news categories of interest and then provides an easy to scan list of recent articles. At the level of an individual item, I am shown only the detail I need (title, author, image, text) unless I ask for more (original web source). It also allows me to vote (thumbs-up/down) to bias the selection of future articles as well as share articles with friends.

 

clip_image006Amazon

On my mobile device, I use the Amazon application to price check items while I’m walking around a store. I admit it. Sorry brick and mortar stores. If a product of interest is meaningfully cheaper on Amazon, I’ll add it to my cart for later consideration. Amazon knows shoppers do this and make it exceedingly simple. No need to enter a product name in the search bar – just scan the bar code. Like it? Save it for later. After opening the application it takes exactly 3 taps. They could drop it down to 1 but hey, no one’s perfect.

 

clip_image008 Starbucks

I like coffee and I make no excuses for buying my cappuccino from Starbucks. Want my business? Make consistently good, strong coffee. Starbucks makes this easier for me (and them) because using their application means I don’t need to take out my wallet. I always have my phone, I don’t always have cash and it just bugs me to use a credit card to buy a cup of coffee. A simple application at its core, it is a reloadable debit card that keeps track of my purchases and every dozen drinks or so, gives me a free drink. Open the application, flip the display from “current balance” to barcode and scan. Done.


Kevin Richardson has been working in the area of user experience for over 20 years. With an advanced degree in Cognitive Psychology, he has experience across business verticals in the fields of research, evaluation, design and management of innovative, user-centered solutions.

Kevin’s experience includes web sites, portals and dashboards, enterprise software and custom business applications for medical, pharmaceutical, communications, entertainment, energy, transportation and government users.

On the weekends, you can find Kevin on his motorcycle, riding for Infragistics Racing at a number of different racetracks on the East coast.

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