Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The UX Teeter Totter

I think it's very impressive the mobile work that companies like LinkedIn and Facebook are producing today.  Click on their app or their mobile website and the experience is almost identical, as much as the two mobile channels will allow.  Especially in the case of Facebook, which I do wonder how it remembers who I am, in mobile Safari, without cookies enabled...hmm...

I believe companies shade too far away from utility towards fancier user interfaces, on mobile.   Bob Robinson, Executive Creative Director at Rockfish, always talks about the balance of user experience and brand experience in digital design.  On the web and on tablet, a company who demands more brand experience can reach more and push the envelope, but on mobile, the platform itself demands more utility, by its nature.  People browse longer on tablets and frequently want quick information and action on smartphones.  User experiences need to be optimized for both, which might limit, in the case of mobile web, how much responsive design is used, if a more brand oriented experience is chosen for the tablet or web.

The recent LinkedIn mobile app re-design, while visually interesting, strays too far from utility in its approach and at times is confusing on what a user should do where.  I find LinkedIn an awesome tool for business, and before I meet someone for the first time, I constantly find myself looking them up on my mobile, reminding myself of their experience and taking a quick mantal snapshot of what they look like.  Something about the redesign though makes me think that the mapping of mental model to conceptual model is not right yet.  It does not intuitively click for me, even after some months of use.

I have more issues with Facebook's redesign, though.  I was using Facebook more and more on mobile, as are many people according to Eric Tseng, but in hindsight, since the redesign, I find myself coming back to my laptop more and more to interact with Facebook.  While there still seem to be some defects in the iPhone app that cause more user action than is required, especially with notifications and updates, I feel like any action that I plan takes several more steps than what might be optimally required.  It would be interesting to do an industrial engineering time study on Facebook mobile use.  Maybe this is why I find myself hovering back to my laptop when I want to engage with Facebook?

The different models of how users expect to interact with the different channels challenges the design to balance reuse and optimal experience.  It's expensive and difficult to do an optimized design for each platform and channel.  A good approach starts with the right content architecture that allows for the same source data, without sacrificing performance on the apps, by splitting the presentation from the data.  In this way, each platform can be optimized to host that data with the best experience.

In the coming weeks, we'll dive into some approaches on how this might be done.

No comments:

Post a Comment