Scan your memory. Think about apps you have seen or used. Which left the greatest impression? With stiff competition and similar app offerings at a user’s disposal, what separates one app from another? A memorable user experience.
Think Pokemon, think Snapchat, think Tinder.
Building a pleasant mobile user experience essentially means taking decisions that and are in-line with mobile-specific considerations and that positively impact the ease of use, the app’s usefulness and its accessibility for the user. However, this seems pretty basic given the increased pressure put on app businesses to create long-term meaningful user experiences.
There are numerous new age models employed by user-experience designers, however, the one proposed by Peter Morville seems to be the most relevant for app businesses.
Let’s look at the ‘how’ behind building a memorable user experience, using Peter’s model, but first, we begin by examining this model up close.
The Honeycomb Model for UX – Adapting it for Mobile Apps
Peter Morville, an ex-Googler and a well-known designer and information architect consultant, has proposed a honeycomb user experience model that includes seven key factors that define UX for today’s well-informed users.
This model takes into account the following parameters:
- Usefulness of the product
- Product’s usability
- Product value
Clearly, a good app user experience is aimed at ultimate user satisfaction and it’s only when numerous elements work in tandem that it gets the required thumbs-up from users. Let’s go ahead and dig deeper into each of these factors and see how they can be applied to mobile apps.
#1 Identifying Usefulness of the App
It is a common practice for app businesses to launch an app without genuinely understanding its need or usefulness for users. This is largely to do with the fact that they’ve been enamored by the ‘there’s an app for that’ mindset and want to be a part of that trend.
Even though most apps are being launched after sufficient thought, businesses should still be mindful and question their usefulness. Although an external factor, an app’s usefulness does impact the user’s overall experience. The discussion here is not about the viability of your app, but whether your app has a purpose, and whether it is going to be valued, used and be successful in bringing a certain ROI.
Many brands create an app just to add to the coterie of services they already offer. For example, airline apps with smaller airlines. You can debate the usefulness of apps for major airlines, but most apps launched by smaller airlines, in particular, do not offer anything ‘app specific’ to their users. Apart from the ability to book tickets, check-in or see flight schedules, the usefulness of the app is questionable given that these facilities are available to the user via the website/mobile site, as well.
The bigger airlines apps, on the contrary, put a lot of effort in adding features that elevate their app user’s experience. Delta and other such airlines offer app specific features, such as the ability to track checked luggage. United Airlines flights that do not have in-flight entertainment, offer free live streaming video via their app.
Questioning its usefulness and investing in primary and secondary research before launching will help brands create a truly useful app.
Having touched on this often overlooked factor, let’s move to more significant aspects of app development.
#2 Building a Usable Framework
The learning curve for the user should be as short and painless as possible. That’s why a usable framework must be a high-priority for app businesses. But often this aspect of the user experience is ignored. Complicated onboarding, unfamiliar user flows and difficult-to- understand features all impact the app’s usability, creating a bad user experience.
Given that developers are constantly struggling with iOS and Android updates and the changes they bring to the way an app is used, it is extremely important for app businesses and brands to have a mobile first strategy. To keep your app relevant, the following key factors need to be given importance.
Functionality is a critical factor in the longevity of your app. If users aren’t able to complete the goals for which they downloaded the app, then it serves them no purpose. Users don’t have much patience for poor-performing apps and 86 percent deleted or uninstalled at least one mobile app because of problems with its performance, as reported in the App Attention Span study by AppDynamics.
Another aspect of app functionality that should be understood, but often emerges as a problem, is the way features are designed for the app as opposed to desktop or tablet. An app is not a small size version of your desktop, and hence requires features that complement the mindset and use case of app users. App users are agile and want to keep an eye on things while they’re on the go – grocery shopping, on the subway, in a boring meeting, or even while watching tv!
With the advent of technology, more specifically, smartphones, the human attention span is diminishing by the day and is now only about 8 seconds. If your app is full of features that don’t make sense to a user, it will soon be deleted.
While discussing functionality, we can’t ignore the way businesses take decisions on adding or removing app features. Overloading your app with features in the hope that users would eventually want them, ) and deleting features without taking enough feedback are both examples of bad strategy calls that require moderation in order to offer the ‘right functionality’ to your users.
Nike’s revamped app is an example. The Nike+ running app has been a constant companion for runners and one of the top entries in its segment until the brand randomly decided to rehaul its app. This change resulted in the loss of many features and the functionality that made it popular with its loyal users in the first place. Even though the generic features remained unchanged, users sorely missed the elements that actually motivated them to stay with the app, resulting in a public out lash on the app store and social media platforms.
Performance & Responsiveness
Performance and responsiveness are intrinsic elements that define the usability of the app. Anything that prevents a user from fully achieving their goal is essentially a flaw. App businesses should focus on the app’s loading speed, the workability of its features, platform performance and how the app responds to interaction.
Improving UI responsiveness should be a top priority for app businesses, and decisions should be made after rigorous usability tests designed to build a heightened UX. Keep in mind that there is a direct correlation between application usability and user acceptance.
App onboarding is a user’s first impression of your app, and first impressions are hard to forget. An effective onboarding separates memorable apps from others and is a perfect opportunity for app businesses to educate and display value to the user. A good onboarding plan ensures that the user fully understands the app’s capability and continues using it.
A study done by Localytics found that retention rates improved by 50% by implementing a solid onboarding strategy. There are numerous ways to improve app onboarding. 7Out, for example, uses video tutorial as a part of its onboarding.
Other ways to achieve a good onboarding flow include limiting unnecessary logins, using progressive indicators, and adding an easy sign-up process.
#3 Evoking Desirability
We’ve discussed the significance of usefulness and usability in creating a memorable UX, however, one cannot ignore the element of desirability and its impact on eliciting an emotional response from users.
To stick with our model, here’s Peter Morville on desirability:
“Our quest for efficiency must be tempered by an appreciation for the power and value of image, identity, brand, and other elements of emotional design.”
According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, our emotions impact our experiences and how we take decisions. UI design plays a significant role in creating desirability for your app, and don’t ignore the fact that a good UI design takes into account both the physical and psychological aspects that impact app conversions.
Design is a broad topic, but for the sake of discussion, here are a few intrinsic UI design elements that influence a user’s decision to stay put with your app.
- Choice of Colour
- Minimal design
- Choice of graphics
- Use of icons
- Use of CTA
- Placement of control
Each of these not only impacts the UI design but also impact desirability, a key component of app UX.
Apart from design, another factor that influences the desirability of an app is the level of personalization that it offers to its users. Imagine walking into a bar and being instantly recognized by the bartender. It is human for us to be attracted to places, products or services that remember us, and the same is true for mobile apps.
A survey done by Sitecore and Vanson Bourne in 2016 found that users want more personalized apps over the next three years.
Users love it when the app experience is tailor-made to their needs and preferences. App businesses can enhance the experience by offering personalized content, personalized recommendations, push notifications and location-based personalization. Here’s an example of a personalized push notification used by Pandora based on the user’s in-app activity.
Unique experiences like the one above add to the app’s desirability and in turn elevate the user’s overall app experience.
#4 Focussing on Findability
Findability in the context of UX equates to the ability of a user to easily find what they are looking for in your app. Users should be able to experience a seamless flow and be able to navigate from one part of the app to another without any friction. UX should consider accessibility, should be meaningful and understandable without complicating the experience and should be contextually relevant to the user.
A good navigational flow can be achieved by designing for touch, limiting the number of categories, and providing navigational cues at the right time.
For example, the Facebook app highlights the most important elements in its nav bar and the remaining functionality is available in the more section of the app.
Similarly, UBER uses sliders to help users pick up a cab of their choice.
Recommended read: Hot Navigation Design Patterns for Mobile
#5 Prioritizing Accessibility
An often forgotten element of the user experience is designing for accessibility. Most apps’ UX lack relevance for people with color blindness, low vision, temporary or permanent cognitive disabilities, physical limitations, and impairments.
The two major challenges faced by users is over-dependence on color as a means of conveying information and designing for ‘strong’ hands.
In this thoughtful article, Jesse Hausler, Principal Accessibility Specialist at Salesforce, discusses designing for mobile app users with disabilities and limitations. He has the following pearls of wisdom for app businesses:
- Don’t think of accessibility as a barrier to innovation. “Design constraints will give you new ideas to explore that will lead to better products for all of your users.”
- Think beyond color as a means of disseminating information to users. Use color to highlight or complement what is already visible.
- Ensure sufficient contrast between text and its background.
- Stay minimalistic but be careful with forms. He mentions that ”Users with cognitive disabilities may have difficulty finding and interacting with fields without common visual cues.”
- Avoid component identity crisis.
- Lastly, don’t make people hover to find things.
People with disabilities and limitations continue to face challenges; apps that prioritize accessibility can tap into a large audience for themselves.
#6 Making Credible Apps
When users interact with your app, they share a lot of personal and private information – email ids, addresses, birth dates, educational backgrounds, etc.. Building an app that’s credible and can be trusted by its users is, therefore, a significant part of a memorable user experience, especially at a time when studies suggest a decline in trust by users.
There are many external factors, such as testimonials and user reviews on the app store, that help create an environment of trust for the app user. However, users still regard privacy and security as their top two concerns.
In-app elements are what makes the user stay put with the app; trust is significant to the mobile app user experience.
The first step towards building a credible app is maintaining a consistent internal interface. All elements of the app should not only look the same but should offer the same work in a similar manner.
Airbnb made many changes to their app’s UX in order to build a more trustworthy and credible app which is now enjoyed by a global user base. Joe Gebbia, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Airbnb, talks candidly about trust in this TED talk:
Other factors that impact credibility in an app ecosystem is the content that businesses share and how they seek permissions from the app users.
People tend to trust apps that specifically explain the reasons behind seeking particular information from them. Trustworthy apps also inform the user when asking them to take a specific in-app action. For example, the Snapguide app offers a Facebook-based login and informs the users that the app will have access to their public profile and email. At the same time, the app’s onboarding message lets the user know the benefits of periodic notifications without sounding too nosy.
In order to build a memorable user experience that aligns with expectations, you need to make sure that your app is credible and centered around them. Trust plays a significant role in defining credibility.
#7 Offering Product Value
The ultimate component of a memorable app experience is the value it adds for the customer. This forms the basis of customer satisfaction and loyalty. If we skim through popular apps we see that the key reason behind their popularity is the overall value they offer to the user. In order to maintain the ultimate user experience, app businesses should not only investigate the values that they have but also the ones that they are lacking.
Wrapping it up
Building an app that is pleasing to the user isn’t easy. App businesses need to upgrade their offerings from time to time and invest in both qualitative and quantitative research to identify the flaws in their apps so they can build a sustainable user experience. The pointers in this article can serve as an ideal framework within which to follow a strategy.
Have a tip to that can help others create a memorable app experience? Share with us in the comments below.