Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Understanding mobile user experience is the next macro-challenge

Getting your arms around UX ...

"User experience. It is a broad and sometimes ambiguous term. To-date, the mobile industry has typically employed it to describe the graphical user interface (UI) of an application or device. However, despite the increasing frequency with which it is cited by the mobile business, user experience is something rather more complex than the way a product looks.

To genuinely enhance the mobile user experience, we must look beyond simplifying the UI of an application or employing an industrial designer to make a handset look more attractive. Instead, we must focus our attention on understanding the nuanced behavioural patterns of individual customers across the many touch points which form an overall impression of a product or service. It is in this way that user experience issues can affect everyone in the value chain. Whether you are a chipset manufacturer several layers removed from the end user or an application developer selling direct to consumers, the approach you take has some sort of impact on the end customer.

You can employ a designer to create the most beautiful of UIs, but no amount of colourful icons is enough to compensate for a slow processor or an application which crashes.

The mobile industry has been slow to wake up to the reality that mobile user experience is not a set of technologies you can buy in or a UI layer which can be skinned onto a product at the end of the development process. For years, the mobile business has expanded successfully using a model of iterating new technologies and then searching around for customers prepared to buy them. We've become accustomed to a development cycle built around ticking boxes on a specification sheet. 5 megapixel camera...check; touchscreen...check; Wi-Fi...check. Such days, however, are coming to an end. The industry is maturing rapidly and the battleground for competitive advantage is shifting from pure technology to a more subtle art.

With the arrival of products like the iPhone, it is becoming more and more apparent that competitive differentiation will be derived from our ability to truly understand customers' lives and translate that knowledge into better, more relevant and more profitable products.

Success stories to validate this more customer-centric approach are emerging. The iPhone is an obvious example. It may be best known for its touchscreen UI, but as the numerous competitors who've tried to copy this device are discovering, the real differentiators are Apple's marketing strategy, retail experience, software platform approach and developer relations. All of these elements combine to create that intangible quality known as 'great customer experience."    (Continued via Rethink Wireless, Usability News, Marek Pawlowski)    [Usability Resources]

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