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The Importance of UX in Mobile

You've probably heard, mobile is kind of a big deal. Here at Maestro, we love it. But we're not alone. Over 20% of the respondents to our recent mobile survey said their mobile apps are "Extremely important: I don't remember how to function without them." With mobile becoming ubiquitous and devices and their users becoming more sophisticated, expectations are extremely high. Not only are you expected to have a mobile presence, but the experience you deliver must be top notch. That's a tall order, and it can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when venturing into the mobile realm.

Consider your constraints and your opportunities

There are a number of constraints to keep in mind when developing a mobile solution. Some are obvious; screen size, different input mechanisms. Some are less obvious; data transfer fees and limits, battery life. It's incredibly important to have a firm understanding of exactly what these constraints mean and how to address them. For example, smaller screen size doesn't just mean making things smaller in order to fit. It means you must focus your content and features. Strip away the superfluous, focus on the essential. This is a delicate balancing act, though. You don't want to punish your users for being mobile. They still expect access to all the same content. In many cases it's about prioritization, not elimination.

Mobile is not all about constraints, however. Mobile devices can also offer some unique opportunities not available in desktop and standard web apps. Features like the camera, GPS and accelerometer can be used to enhance your mobile solutions. Look for ways to leverage these features. A word of caution, though. Don't be gimmicky. A cheesy feature can cause you to lose credibility much quicker than a well executed feature can build you up.

Context, context, context

If content is king, then context is the younger brother lurking in the shadows, waiting for the slightest opening to off the king and takeover his reign. Context is all about when and where your app will be used. This can be difficult to determine, but it is vitally important. We can't just assume that because our users are mobile that they are in a rush and only want quick access to limited information. On the contrary. 84% of people use their mobile devices at home. You've probably done it yourself. Sitting on the couch or your comfy chair watching TV, you whip out your phone or iPad to quickly see what your friends are doing on Facebook, or the latest artfully filtered photos on Instagram. Don't assume you know where your users will be using your application. Get out of the office (or hire someone) and do some testing. If you make assumptions based on when and where you think your users are going to be using your app, you're bound to disappoint.

Mobile is everywhere. You can't escape it. More Internet-ready mobile devices are being sold today than traditional computers. If you haven't already, it's well time you enter the mobile arena. But, it's important to do so thoughtfully. Users have high expectations. It's worth the investment to create a delightful, engaging experience. It takes a little more effort, but it's worth it.  

Note: Many of the tips in this post are from a piece I wrote for Smashing Magazine. If you'd like to find out more you can read the entire article on their site.

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