Delightful Mobile Design practices

April 23rd, 2012 | Biz Blogs, Technical Blogs | Comments Off

OR How to create remarkable design that people would love talking about.

This is not mobile design best practices. This is about going the extra mile in developing an app that wows users and creates a superlative user experience. It may be hard to include all these ideas in every application one creates, but some ideas are really worth imbibing in practice. This is more about the UI design then the application architecture but it was hard for me to separate the two when I look at it from user’s experience. So, I’ve conjoined the two aspects of design under the same flow.

Exceptional/minority inclusion – Design apps for the users who are exceptional or in minority – old, disabled, visually impaired, color blind, left handed. You may allow user to set navigation option for left handers, create animated visual indicators or audio instructions for old and visually impaired.

Clear visual indicators of action points – the app should guide you on the next step. The ‘Save button’ to be clicked before going to next screen may turn green, or flash or develop a colored halo to indicate it is the recommended action. You may also add some audio indicators as they are unobtrusive.

Airbnb

Visual indicator for action item

No pop over – avoid popups so much that they occur only in exceptional or unavoidable cases. Instead of asking a delete confirmation over popup – make it two step.

Facebook

Could have done better with two buttons

Shortcut gestures – have an intuitive gesture as a shortcut to classic approach but don’t forego the classic approach. Include the classes but don’t forget the masses.

Store preferences, last inputs if possible – Nothing delights more than the idea of NOT having to input data again.

Offline mode – do not expect users to always be connected. Allow them to use the app offline, even with stale data. Also handle weak network, intermittent network loss conditions.

Economy mode – The app may suggest economic ways of consuming data – allow a switch between paid and free networks as convenient, may be automatically. Also some user may love economy of power and memory at a little loss of performance. You may allow adjusting screen brightness or do it automatically based on ambience.

Least interruption – other than popups there are other clutters one must avoid. Uploading/ downloading/ processing indicators should also be avoided as much as possible. A background process is best run in the background without hindering user interaction. If it requires user input it is #fail. If it is visible – it is distracting. Drop any visual indicators of a background process unless and until the user is ‘required’ to be aware of it or his decisions would be affected because of it.

Less clicks is more fun – Unless it is a game of tic-tac-toe or tap-tap-tap tapping on virtual buttons is no fun. Save/Sync the information automatically, save state before exiting and the users are compelled to say ‘Wow!’Path (12/2011)

Saves a click as the info is rite-on-the-page

Easter eggs – Now, this is not just about delighting the user. It also makes your application viral because users would have cool things to talk about, blog and share over the internet. In fact, hiding one of the awesome features for discovering later can bring wows, if done smartly.

There can be more pointers to a great design but I guess this is an age of “Less is more”.

Mobility – Consumer apps v/s Enterprise apps

April 9th, 2012 | Biz Blogs, Technical Blogs | Comments Off

OR Innovating Enterprise Mobility without using Consumer Tech

A lot of innovation and creativity is ignored in the name of developing enterprise solutions. Generally major share of the innovation, creativity and fun in software is attributed to consumer apps. There has been a huge historical disconnect between the two. The adoption of Mobility and Social Media by corporates is fast bridging the gap between enterprise and consumer applications. Most people see it as consumer tech inspired design more so because the consumer tech is built in to the mobile platforms. But here are pointers on how one can achieve innovation in enterprise software:

1. Unsophisticate - as compared to focussing on “Simplicity”, which is hard to achieve for enterprise solutions, architect should look to break down the solution in to smaller (more detailed) modules and de-complicate each one. It may involve cutting down features, removing the clutter from UI, adopting standard UI guidelines, letting go of the ‘Original’ look and feel. Many enterprise software suffer because they focus on maintaining the “Old” stuff while moving to new platform quoting easy adoption. Try weighting ‘Unknown but Simple’ with ‘Known but Complex’ – the former just feels right. Isn’t it?

2. Usability - An enterprise user is absolutely no different from consumer. It is important to consider this assumption and hold to it stringently unless exceptions are mandatory. A little effort on improving interaction experience goes a long way in enhancing the usability.

3. Smart features - Smartness factor indicates how well is your solution using the mobile platform and device capabilities. Is it location aware, does it prefill or track the correct time and location of use? Does it leverage usage of camera for attaching documents or scanning barcodes? does it allow taking voice or video notes to add with text?

4. Graphics - Enterprise design do not have to look dull. You may want it to look profesional but there are creative ways to keep it simple yet interesting.

5. Revisiting MDM and Security - Security is perhaps the numbero uno requirement as well as concern for mobile based enterprise solutions. Considering two assumptions:
1) Data available on the mobile devices would be extremely confidential.
2) A centralized system is continuously required for monitoring and managing devices accross the organization.
If any of the above is not completely true your security and MDM needs may be taken care of by existing infrastructure provided by mobile application stores specially Google Play and Apple appstore. Updates and cloud based push notifications take care of some of the MDM requirements. Login based access, encrypted data storage or regular server sync and token based security can completely immune the data from undesired access even in the event of theft/loss of device. Even when the above assumptions are true, the MDM and security for enterprise mobility can be made cost effective by including the suggestions made above.

The right way to GO Mobile!

April 8th, 2012 | Biz Blogs | Comments Off

Going mobile can be a costly and challenging affair. That makes it imperative to do it right the first time. A lot has been said about creating better applications for mobile. I’ve tried to summarize five most essential considerations for creating effective mobility solutions/strategy:

Focus – Mobile usage is far more specific, contextualized and personal as compared to PC usage. Cut down generic features relentlessly. Focus on limiting the feature-set, injecting simplicity and intuitiveness.

Start early, start simple – I’ve never seen someone need a user manual for Gmail, Facebook, Zynga games. And if you stop taking them for granted, these are very sophisticated applications – loaded with features. What goes in their favor is that they started simple and users adopted them and evolved with them. That may sound costly and time taking, but holistically it is more effective at roughly the same cost.

Security, Performance, Scalability – The overwhelming feature set of mobile solutions often lures decision makers to undermine these important requirements. Mobility solutions can be made completely secure if you architect it correctly. The solution should also focus on low memory and power footprints and be architecturally adaptive to future enhancements.

Smartness factor– Many enterprise and productivity solution often miss out on one front – How much of the platform/device capabilities are used? A little effort on using more of the available platform/device features (like GPS, Camera, Contacts) can make the solution manifold smarter. However one should be stringent about point one – ‘Focus’ and wary of adding very general/irrelevant features.

Platform independence – The mobile platforms/devices scenario is so fragmented that it is important to look for solutions that are as less dependent on platforms as possible. The first approach should be to evaluate a browser based solution. If that does not meet your requirements go for a Hybrid (HTML5 plus Native) solution which is cost effective and more platform independent than native. Developing platform dependent native solutions are costlier and take more time to market.

Integration – Another futuristic and significant consideration is integration of mobility solution with other channels. Integration with server, hosted enterprise solutions, existing websites, apps, cloud is already sought while developing mobile solutions.  Seeking integration with smart television and interactive kiosks, though futuristic, can be worth considering.

Who mobility is for?

April 8th, 2012 | Biz Blogs | Comments Off

Mobility is in vogue. There are software vendors that have mobility solution for your every business problem. Considering the time and cost it takes businesses need a clear mobility strategy focused on adoption, cost-effective solution and ROI. Here are some suggestions that can better guide the one exploring how mobility fits in:

Mass appeal product/services: If the products/services are aimed at masses. Size of your company or operations do not matter; more significant is your intention to reach out to the masses. Also, of course, if the potential mass of buyers/users use mobile phones.

Huge workforce: If your executive workforce is mobile (on the field), large in number, needs updated information constantly, needs to stay connected horizontally or vertically, needs to look smarter and technologically advanced.

Start-ups:  can have mobility built-in to their products/services, business model and technology strategy. Instead of using mobile as an extension to the server based solutions these days some solutions require to use them as central implementation and server (or cloud) as an extended support.

Small business: can use mobility to enhance client’s experience, improve vendor management, improve overall productivity of workforce, and improve control over logistics.

Large business: Other than the uses stated above large business can use mobility to go green, significantly reduce paper usage, speed up internal processes, show-off (now that tablets and smartphones are a part of business attire), and improve visibility and transparency for higher management.

Mobility – the changing game!

April 7th, 2012 | Biz Blogs, Technical Blogs | Comments Off

Initially mobile was perceived as an extension to internet and enterprise solutions. But, with advent of smart mobile platforms with higher form factors, advance features and apps based ecosystem and evolution of social media the game has changed. Many business models now require a reversed technology strategy. In fact, many do not realize that mobility and social media evolution is “ON” and the game is still constantly changing. There is a different angle with which businesses are strategizing today. Almost every business, regardless of its size or domain, is imagining tapping its share of the mobility advantage. However, it is important to chalk out a mobility strategy before going all in. Here are some key items to include in your mobility strategy checklist.

Going mobile is a business (not IT) decision: Enterprise Mobility aimed at enhancing productivity, efficiency and curbing cost and delays has significant impact on the way organization works. It is important to accept and understand that transformation and plan it in advance. It may require changes in organizational structure, processes, infrastructure and people. It may also open new business opportunities and induce new vulnerabilities.

Security and Privacy: As with every new technology implement, there are concerns of data security and adoption. Another important aspect that comes in picture with mobility is employee privacy concerns. With concepts like BYOD, security is a greater concern. Fortunately, mobility has solutions for all these concerns and one can effectively manage all relevant devices, software updates, provisioning, backups and information security.

Platform diversity: The mobility clearly has a split market share shared by iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows. Palm and Bada being minor players. Diversity of platforms is also an opportunity for tools that can produce platform independent solutions like Adobe (Flex), Appcelerator (Titanium), AppMobi, Bedrock (Metismo), Ansca (Corona), DragonRad, Kony, Marmalade, MoSync, Netbiscuits, Alcatel Lucent (OpenPlug), PhoneGap, RhoMobile, RunRev (LiveCode), Sencha Touch/jQTouch, Strobe/Sproutcore, Unity, Unreal, Worklight and Xamarin (MonoTouch/Droid).

Involve stakeholders: Any business transformation requires strong internal communication for smooth adoption. All stakeholders must be kept aware of what’s coming and when, also, how does the transformation affect or benefit them.

This series will also cover who Mobility is for, what the right way to go mobile is, and how to invest smartly in mobility.