UX Immersion: Mobile (Part 2)

UX Immersion distinguishes itself from other conferences by doing a focused deep-dive into a single current issue. This year, we were fortunate in their selection of Mobile as the topic. Through workshops and talks, our team was able to gain a wealth of new information and techniques to help us design for the mobile space in the future. We also got a sense of what being mobile really means, discovering that 77% of mobile searches take place at home or at the desk at work and that 31% of mobile internet users report it being the primary way they go online (both stats courtesy of Karen McGrane).

Instead of dove-tailing the mobile experience into inane simplicity, the conference challenged us in a host of ways to expand our view of mobile design potentials. Luke Wroblewski dared us to encourage rather than limit mobile input. Karen McGrane pushed us to use mobile as a catalyst to clean up content and re-think the website. Every presenter brought a new perspective or a new challenge for us. We will now highlight these insights for each session.


Tuesday Talks

Tuesday?s schedule presented featured talks and keynotes. These were more typical conference sessions, lasting about an hour and a half. Some speakers also gave workshops, but presented different material in their talks.


One Design to Work Everywhere ? Luke Wroblewski

Ben McNeil

Typically when we begin a responsive design project, we think of three main viewports ? desktop, “standard” sized phone, and tablet (read: iPad). ?Luke Wroblewski spent a humorous hour at UXIM highlighting the folly of such an approach. ?The fastest growth area in mobile devices is in the margins between what we often consider the standard viewport sizes. ?Luke began the presentation demonstrating the sheer number of new mobile devices, ranging from 5″ and 6″ phablets to 30″ televisions users were encouraged to touch, carry, and use as a phone!

For UX professionals, it is clear that we can no longer think of responsive design as simply as we did before, if it ever were simple. ?Designers must consider the variety of physical settings, device types and sizes, resolutions, and other factors which influence how users interact with technology. ?Strategically, this means that the device landscape is expanding too rapidly to target everything, and applications must make choices about which platforms and device types to support. ?To avoid this choice, the trend is toward responsive browser-based platforms. ?Tactically, the rapid change in devices means that responsive designs must incorporate a wide range of fluid breakpoints, be device and platform agnostic, and use familiar input methods which can work well across the huge variety of sizes and standards in the wild.

From my perspective, the intersection of the browser-based responsive world and the native app approach is the most interesting outcome of these trends. ?We may see a rise in “responsive native apps” that use responsive-style breakpoint mechanics and viewport specific layouts, but also maintain the fluidity only a native application can provide.


Mapping Emotion to Experience ? Kelly Goto

Adam Matthews

Kelly took a different approach in her talk, focusing on the emotional aspect of the mobile experience. She started out with a couple of perhaps surprising statistics:

  • 73% of people report panicking if they misplace or lose their cell phone
  • 14% feel desperate in the same situation

This is because checking one?s phone is a compulsive habit, with users checking every 10 minutes on average and not even realizing it! Designing for pleasure preys on this, while designing for enjoyment can provide a deeper, more intentional ritualistic experience. This is accomplished by empathetic designs that integrate a meaningful action into the user?s life. This can also help reverse the trend of the internet making users shallower thinkers by promoting cursory reading, hurried & distracted thinking, etc.

Deep meaning is a non-conscious process, which is generally less accessible to the user?s conscious self. Using the Kano method of assessing normal vs. expected vs. exciting requirements helps determine design elements that yield the sense of control and the ?why? of actions to engage users at this level of depth. Kelly calls us to design for something beyond mere usability by engaging users? emotions in this manner. Achieving this level of interaction is something that we at Roundarch Isobar strive for when working with clients such as Healthways; creating a deeper and more meaningful experience can only help solutions like Well-Being ConnectTM become more effective in helping people live longer & happier lives.


Using Metaphors to Create Better Personas ? Cyd Harrell

Ronald Stevens

In her talk, Cyd Harrell discussed ways to improve the accuracy and understanding of personas through the use of playful metaphors. By applying metaphors to our personas, we are able to focus on the user behaviors and characteristics we wish to capture without adding too much focus on physical characteristics of a person that might lead to the persona being interpreted as a stereotype. These metaphors can be generated by analyzing user data and interviews to fine common themes. Within those themes, metaphors can be generated that can accurately describe the levels of behavior and/or engagement that potential user groups might require. Within Roundarch Isobar, we can apply metaphors to our personas so that we can focus on the actual needs of the user, without focusing on characteristics that would not affect the overall user experience and usability of the experiences we design. Personas are an important tool in the user experience toolkit and being able to find new ways to?improve them is essential in giving our client’s the highest quality of work.


The Immobile Web ? Jason Grigsby

Oren Kravetz

Contrary to most of the speakers, Jason Grisby focused on larger screens in his talk, ?The Immobile Web.? The TV, he argued, is becoming an increasingly important device in users? lives: Microsoft announced in that in 2012, Xbox LIVE was being used more for entertainment than for gaming and the rumors of Apple building a TV, based on a quote from Steve Jobs? biography, generated more media buzz surrounding CES 2012 & 2013 than any of the TVs that were actually announced at those events. Over the last few years, we have been inundated with ?SmartTVs? that run apps and connect to the Internet. The problem, however, is that the user experience on TVs sucks, owing largely to input. Typing using a traditional remote control is cumbersome at best and remotes that include a full keyboard look unwieldy, complex, and ugly. Other challenges in designing for TVs include needing to optimize for tasks, chrome that goes away when a video is playing, needing to support multiple resolutions, and not being able to detect if the device is a TV using media queries. However, all this is similar to the state of the phone industry prior to the launch of the iPhone in 2007. So while SmartTV interfaces suck, we cannot dismiss them yet. In fact, HBO and other Roundarch Isobar clients are trying to innovate in this space by publishing apps on various TV platforms as well as interactive experiences on the ?second screen??over 85% of tablet and smartphone owners use their device while watching TV at least once a month. Other brands can take advantage of this channel by considering the use of bigger screens in the office with either multi-touch or Kinect-like inputs, such as the stadium management tool Roundarch Isobar built for the New York Jets.


Experiencing Delightful Content – Jared Spool

Iliana Radneva

In his keynote presentation, Jared Spool discussed how delightful content ? a result of good, information architecture?and?good interaction design?and?good visual design – adds real value to the user experience. Using successful examples from various industries, he built the case for placing content at the center of both the customer?s experience and the company?s business model. The reason for both being, in part, due to the fact that ?you?re 478 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad.? He also reminded us that ?[t]hinking, understanding, and talking about business models is a UX professional?s job.??I would add to that, that it is also a creative professional’s job. And it’s a job that we, at Roundarch Isobar, have been particularly successful at, because the collaboration between UX and creative is at the core of our work.

While discussing how the banner ads ?average click-through rate is 0.1%,? Jared also mentioned in passing the idea of ?seducible moments? ? the right moment at which you can lure the participant away from their original goal and into exploring something else. While this idea is not new and he did not discuss it at length,?I found it (and?some of his previous work?on the topic)?to be very relevant to our clients, as for many of them, content is their core offering.

Overall, Jared’s talk reminded us that we should continue to help our clients center the experience around quality content in order for their business models to remain sustainable. ?While doing so we should also continue identifying the key “seducible” moments/places where we can help our clients to further engage and increase their customer base.