Archive for Usability


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A new post from MediaPost reports that nearly four in ten mobile users find mobile branded apps from their favorite brands disappointing. How can a mobile marketing and advertising app create user experiences and functionality to engage their customers? Web strategy doesn’t transfer to mobile. Brands need to expand beyond awareness and education and focus on the mobile user experience design when creating mobile branded apps.

blog post branded app users frustrated 38% of Users are Unhappy with Mobile Branded Apps. What can you do?

The study also showed that 70% using mobile branded apps agreed that an app that isn’t useful or easy to use contributes to a negative perception about a brand. Brands today can’t ignore critical elements of the mobile user interface design and mobile user experience design when creating an app.

Close to three-quarters (73%) of users believe a mobile advertising app or a mobile marketing app should be easier to use than the company Web site. How many times have you felt confused when using a branded app?

Remember in the late 90s when the early web was evolving commercially? A visually unappealing website, frustrating to navigate with clunky functionality clearly conveyed “Wow. That company doesn’t get it.”

This is EXACTLY what brands portray - even to fans - when they execute a branded mobile app poorly.

A branded app is not just a checkbox on a list. Mobile branded apps for marketing and advertising have a valuable function and can sway consumer perception with the press of a button. Here are some factors to consider when executing a branded app:

  • Is your branded app integrated well with your marketing campaigns across multiple platforms?
  • Does your mobile user interface not only conform to device specific UI guidelines but exceed them? Good enough doesn’t cut it.
  • Are you effectively communicating your message through utility or entertainment? The medium is NOT the message. The message is the message.
  • Are you providing ongoing fresh content to drive repeat visits and encourage social media sharing?




When designing mobile user interfaces, we always face the design challenge of pixel density on a mobile device. What you see on a computer screen is usually larger than what you will see on a mobile device and sometimes we don’t have access to the target device we are designing for.

Mobile UI Design Tip Pixel Density

There are a few ways to address this and make sure that a mobile user interface design is appropriate when smaller. One solution is simply shrink it down to the exact size of the mobile device we are targeting. This is fine to determine if the general layout works. However, it doesn’t work well with fonts as the text can get distorted and then you can’t determine whether you’ve chosen a good font size.

Many graphics applications (Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator to name a few) allow simultaneous views of the same visual document. This is an extremely helpful tool when designing mobile user interfaces.

In the above screenshot, two views of the same document are shown. The one on the left is at 100% and the one on the right has been reduced to match the exact size of the mobile device screen we’re targeting for this user interface. We can make any changes to the image on the left and manipulate the view in any way we want while keeping the right view open to see how our user interface will look on our target mobile device. To do this in Photoshop, with a document open, select WINDOW>ARRANGE>NEW WINDOW FOR…

Another way we use dual screenshots is to make sure the user interface controls for a touch screen UI are spaced correctly. We simply touch the design that has been sized on the monitor to match the mobile device to determine if the user interface elements are far enough apart.

The Mac has a tool we like called Screen Shrink that allows us to literally shrink a screen so we can see what part of it may look like on a mobile device. This also works well when you see an inspiring design on the web and wonder if it could work well at a smaller size.




Textually.org noted an unusual campaign for the Google Android-powered Vodafone HTC mobile phone.  Users upload what they “wish” their handset could do to a website where the wishes are ranked. The brand says it will work to make one of those wishes come true. The Wish Factory campaign went live in June and early results have shown an average of 1,500 campaign site visitors per day. This is a clever way to get lots of input for mobile design.

Mobile Design Crowdsourcing

Of course, getting valuable marketing information is one of the immediate benefits of this campaign. I think a reward system would make a visit to the website even more attractive – perhaps the end users who submit the most popular ideas could be rewarded with additional services, free devices or some type of monetary payment. 

It would be interesting to apply this concept to improvements for major handset apps or services. Users could submit ideas for the apps on their device about improving usability, features, or mobile user interfaces. Again, the reward system would be an incentive to participate. Power users or top contributors could be rewarded with special access to beta programs to get the features first. 

As devices advance, marketers could take this a step further by allowing users to access collaborative technologies to custom design their own features. For example, someone with a good idea could do collaborative whiteboarding – multiple users tapping into a virtual space together – to share skills to improve a device. This could be anything from sketching wireframes or creating a full mockup. 

I’m looking forward to more user input campaigns and the creative rewards companies will offer to get creative feedback.




The Wall Street Journal has a cool video of Immersion’s demo from the All Things Digital Conference. 

Pretty cool.  I’m excited about Haptic technology’s ability to improve the mobile user experience beyond sight and sound. Touch technology can improve experiences for anything from games to applications. A touchscreen keyboard’s usability and simplicity increase ten fold when you add in the feel of a “real” keyboard.  Speed and productivity improve tremendously. Users also get separate feedback for each key when typing with Multi-Touch.

Shared haptic experiences are innovative too – the demo shows combining touch technology with instant messaging and animated icons. Two great examples are the pulsing heart icon actually feeling like a beating heart or the concept of congratulary glasses clinking together. Perfect for a liquor advertisement. 

The first thing I think of when I hear touch feedback is gaming – and it makes it a true multisensory entertainment experience. But visit Immersion  and you’ll learn that touch screen technology reaches beyond the uses that immediately come to mind. Medical and surgical simulators and automotive controls are two “outside the game” industries that benefit from haptic research.

Imagine one day if haptics was integrated across multiple devices. You could share a multisensory personal experience with friends and family tuning in via their mobile, television or a laptop. What if family was scattered across the world for a major holiday? A meal time get-together could be a fun way to get together and not have anyone feel left out – no matter how far away they are.