As I get ready for my talk at the Fluent Conference in San Francisco titled Avoid critical UX mistakes to keep your users coming back, I’m trying the crystalize some of my thoughts regarding why mobile app usability is more important than usability for desktop or web-based apps. With mobile applications, usability becomes even more complex due to the mobile’s natural characteristics, some of which include:
- Wide audience: From desktop to web-based was one level of user diversity. Now with mobile, we go up another level in user diversity with a user group that has expanded way beyond traditional ‘computer users.’
- Environmental conditions: The environment in which mobile devices are used is constantly in flux and mobile devices and their applications must adapt and change behavior according to environmental conditions. For example, depending on the amount of light, the screen brightness or contrast can adjust automatically.
- Personal association: Mobile smartphones are not just a piece of electronic gear. Rather, users take them everywhere they go (yes, even to the bathroom) and they quickly transform into a personal belonging after being taken out of the box. This is much different than a traditional desktop that stays in one place. The transformation into a personal belonging is due to the personalization of the device which includes settings, data, and software applications, not to mention other personalization aspects such as covers and earphones. You’d loan out your laptop, but would you loan out your mobile phone?
Mobile App Usability and the App Store
It is not surprising that as mobile applications inundate the app stores, mobile app usability is gaining serious attention. Companies are wondering why their app isn’t getting much uptake while others that may have fewer features and are more expensive are getting all of the attention. Remember that if a user cannot learn your mobile app in 30 seconds or less, they will most likely uninstall it and find another. If you haven’t considered such usability factors, it’s probably best that you take mobile app usability seriously.