Better Together: Unifying Your Mobile App and Website’s User Experiences

Mobile vs. DesktopIt’s not exactly news that mobile is revolutionizing the way B2B companies do business. You already know that to connect with modern audiences, mastering mobile is a must. Maybe you’ve already started your company’s mobile journey. Maybe you’re creating responsively designed digital content aimed to take advantage of your audience’s mobile time.

If you’ve taken these first steps, you’re on the right track … but there’s a catch.

If you don’t have a mobile app and website that create a unified user experience, you might be creating more problems than you solve. Here’s why.

More than Mobile

 

Users turn to their mobile device for a number of reasons, including:

  • Available time. If a user has 10 minutes between meetings, it’s easier to whip out a phone than to run back to their desktop.
  • Right context. Mobile is the simplest way for users to get the information they need, when and where they need it. Sometimes a task is better done on a plant floor or with a customer — places a desktop can’t go.
  • Urgency. For tasks that need to be completed immediately, it doesn’t make sense to wait until a desktop is close at hand.

On the other hand, they turn to their desktops for other reasons:

  • Info comparison. To see a lot of information at once, or to review and understand something complex, sometimes you just need a big screen.
  • Data entry. Tasks involving a lot of complicated data entry are pretty painful on a mobile keyboard. You need a real keyboard and mouse.
  • Dedicated work space. If you need peace and quiet to think, your office computer might be better than your phone on the train.

Users’ needs in an application almost never fall into just the desktop or mobile category. To create an effective user experience, users must be able to switch painlessly between your desktop site and your mobile app. They should be able to use the right screen for every task, without any speed bumps or frustrations.

For example, let’s say I begin a task in a mobile app. I have some available time, and the first part of the task is simple enough to work well on my phone. But then, I have to switch to my desktop for the more intense parts of the task. If I have to start from scratch, then I may never engage at all. On the other hand, if a company’s mobile app and web app can both see the in-progress task, then it’s easy to toggle between devices. That added convenience makes me more likely to use the app.

If you aren’t providing a seamless experience across screens, it’s time to step up your game. Otherwise, you’re adding unnecessary frustration to your user experience.

Your Multi-screen User Experience Checklist

 

So how can you tell if your web app and mobile app experiences are in sync … or if you have a serious disconnect? This five-item checklist will get you started.

1. Responsive isn’t enough — you need a native mobile app. Scaling and stacking your content to fit on mobile isn’t enough to create a unified experience. Mobile browsers aren’t designed to preserve your users’ login. Creating a native mobile app version allows users to log in once and stay logged in. This avoids the friction of repeatedly logging in on mobile, which can kill adoption.

2. Prioritize users’ top needs. Thanks to restricted controls and interfaces, even the best mobile app has its limitations. That means it’s critical to know the most common reasons users turn to your app — and to make sure those aspects are executed well. Don’t work backward from your desktop design when you’re building those features. Redesign them for your app with a mobile-first mindset, and then test them to make sure they’re easy to use.

3. Make saving work and switching screens easy. For a great example of this in action, think of your favorite email client. You can start writing an email on your desktop, then pick up your mobile device and hop back into your draft — no speed bumps or lost work. Your buyers expect you to deliver the same smooth transition when they switch between your app and your desktop interface. If your mobile and web apps don’t save work in progress and make it available on the opposite interface, then users can’t straddle a task across both mobile and desktop.

4. Show users how to resume work in progress. How you help users pick up where they left off depends on how they use the app. Critical tasks that give users compelling reasons to straddle mobile and desktop need clear signposts and strong UI choices, so that users will know they can resume their work after a device transition. If users typically start and finish a task on a single device, you might want a more subtle approach. However you manage the transition, be deliberate!

5. Guide the user to the right device. No matter what screen a user interacts with first, make sure they know they have options. Providing a download link for your app might be enough for your website. On mobile, though, you can get more creative. Chances are, some features will only be available on your desktop site, but your users won’t know that without exploring everything. One intuitive way to inform users about where to find these features is to create icons for them in your app. When users tap these icons, they’ll be notified that the feature is available on their desktop. (Plus, by tracking how often users land on these icons, you can decide whether to add those functionalities to your app later.)

Is it time to sync up your desktop and mobile experiences? Give us a call! We’d love to talk about how we can make your website and mobile app work in perfect harmony.

10/07/2016

About Kevin Coe

Kevin is vice president of digital development at The Mx Group. He joined The Mx Group in 1994 after earning his B.S. in advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Kevin oversees the web application and software development group and has been instrumental in the growth of the company’s technology expertise. Under his guidance, this group is now responsible for the development and implementation of hundreds of interactive and custom applications every year, including e–commerce, ERP integration, CMS, portals, viral and SEO initiatives.

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