Design A Best-In-Class Mobile Experience

A lot of people have been talking about Facebook’s new Nearby Friends feature for their mobile app, which gives users the ability to see which friends are nearby. But less discussed, and perhaps just as significant, is another change — to a more contextually-relevant Facebook profile.

In the past, when you checked out other users’ profiles, you would see the same static information including their profile photo and links to their friends and “about” pages. There were two problems with this. First, the information is rarely updated, so it becomes stale. Second, if you don’t know the person, it takes a bit of digging through their pages to find out if you know them or have anything in common.

The Facebook iPhone app’s recent update addresses these concerns by taking a contextual approach. Specifically, it presents more personalized and dynamic information, such as whether you and this person share any mutual friends, whether you happen to live in the same city, and what the friend has been up to recently. The app also prioritizes this information, so it’s one of the first things you see after you click on a user’s profile.

In fact, we’ve seen this trend in mobile apps — the best apps are moving away from static web-like experiences and are delivering more personal, relevant content, fast. In my report, "The Best And Worst Of Mobile User Experience," I found that leading mobile user experiences share common attributes that separate them from the pack. These leading experiences:

  • Deliver clear value. The best mobile experiences, like Heyday’s iPhone journaling app, provide their users with immediate value, from the second they download and open the application. Throughout the experience, they prioritize core functionality relevant to need and perform reliably. The worst experiences are bogged down with unnecessary content and fail to deliver experiences at moments of need.
  • Optimize efficiency. Mobile use is characterized by short bursts of partial attention throughout the day. To meet mobile users' needs, the best experiences enable quick and easy navigation, even while distracted, like the two taps needed to request a car on Uber. The worst experiences leave users wondering what they were doing and how much longer or how many more steps it's going to take.
  • Simplify presentation. Screen real estate is at a premium on mobile devices. The best experiences like Flipboard’s news app capitalize on this constraint by focusing the customer's attention on visual, engaging content rather than clunky, desktop-era controls. The worst experiences are cluttered with text, icons, and labels.

I’ll be speaking more about the characteristics of the best mobile user experiences as well as tactics customer experience pros can use to design a best-in-class mobile experience at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York, June 24th to 25th. Hope to see you there.

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