Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Is ‘Responsive Design’ Enough? Don’t Forget the ‘Context’

The number of consumers using smartphones and tablets to access websites, brands are increasing. This had led to reconsidering how to design user experience for various devices. Roughly one out of every four visits to leading e-commerce websites now comes from smartphones and tablets, representing a whopping 138% annual increase. And with reports of year-over-year PC sales declining for the first time in more than a decade2 As companies now need to cater to various devices and their screen sizes, ‘Responsive Design’ is increasingly being used to have a single design catering to various screen sizes.

Advantages of Responsive Design:
It is a solution that allows your website to adapt to any screen size and orientation, providing a more consistent experience across devices. The user’s web browser changes how the page appears for a specific screen size. It is also on client side unlike previously designed pages for mobile, which were on server-side and would transcode web pages on the fly.
The biggest advantage of responsive design is the time and money factor in building a website. As a single design is used (while defining how layout should be changed, content hidden/shown according to device) it helps conserve design resources. Responsive design also makes it easier to develop and maintain than multiple style sheets for various device forms.
 As mobile websites increasingly become popular, compared to mobile apps (due to improvements on network speed on the mobile) responsive design has become an industry standard.

Does Responsive Design Create Optimal User Experience?
To a certain extent it does. It can show/hide content based on the device. It also lays out websites to be easy to read and navigate with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling, making websites usable on devices.
However, it does not focus on the ‘Context’, which is the most important factor for defining the user experience. Usable websites do not always sell a product. Meeting the user’s needs and expectation helps sell a product. This is where we need to look beyond ‘responsive design’ and focus on the ‘context’.

Users use mobile sites in a ‘mobile’ context. While desktop sites are used with a fairly ‘specified’ context – focused user, comfortable surroundings, full sized keyboard etc. – mobile sites and apps are ‘mobile’, meaning they can be used anywhere - public space, home or office. This means users will have limited attention due to the various distractions from the surroundings. The connectivity in the surroundings and battery usage provide additional complexity.
With multiple devices in hand, users today use multiple devices to purchase a product. Hence, the same design, even though built responsively, may not work across channels. It is very important to understand user’s behavior for using various devices.

According to Google, majority of users use devices sequentially and not simultaneously. Which means, users research a product on mobile, but make a purchase on desktop (as it allows users to be more focused) and track it on tablet or mobile.
 Google has also categorized three types of user behavior on mobile - urgent now (request to find something specific fast, like the directions to an ATM or finding the roadside assistance number), repetitive now (user is someone checking for the same piece of information over and over again, like checking the same stock quotes or weather), and bored now (users who have time on their hands, while on trains or waiting in airports or sitting in cafes).

It is very important that before you design, you should understand the ‘context’ and ‘behavior’ on why and how your customer may use different channels. You can build a journey map (click here to learn how to do a journey map) to understand this. It may be required to have features, which are unique to different channels and not have a single design rendering ‘responsively’ to various devices.

Are ‘Responsive Design’ and ‘Context Driven Design’ Mutually Exclusive? 
Not necessarily. Both can be complimentary.
Before you decide on whether to have to have the same site across all devices or a separate site, it is important to identify the primary device the user will be accessing the application on. Eg: if 70% of users will use the application to check status on mobile, define all the features to aid the user to access it on mobile.
Next, focus on the context they will use on various devices. Eg: A user will mainly use a roadside assistance website to find the roadside assistance number while having a flat tire on mobile instead of signing up for a roadside assistance program. Hence, ensure that the number is displayed upfront instead of sign up button which is focused more on a desktop site. Again, responsive design can be used to hide/show or change the layout of display.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

“Tizen” Knocking the door… Do we really need another Mobile Operating System?

Reports have confirmed that “Samsung”will be using “Tizen OS” for its new upcoming high-end smart phones. Well the smartphone domain is the most challenging one, with OS like Android and IOS dominating the 95 % of the smartphone world. Android being open to all is adopted as the main stream mobile OS for companies like HTC and Samsung.
If we see how the smartphone world has shaped up, definitely Apple has been the leader but with Google acquiring Android and Samsung making Android as their main stream OS platform for mobile device the race is just between these two, Well organizations like HTC and others are doing some innovations but Samsung stood high on this and that is why we see that it is the leader of Android powered phone in the market now.
Nokia once the leader of mobile phones choose different paths and Windows also trying to prove it’s mental on the smartphone domain joined hands. Nokia these days releasing phones powered by Windows 8. Though they are trying there level best to enter the mainstream market but it is still and armature OS and lack of application and intuitiveness has been a roadblock for them for quite sometime. There are only a handful of people who still wants to go with Nokia.
On the contrary Blackberry once a leader finding itself out of the contest of mobile OS race made a heroic effort to release BB 10. Well at first it did prove to be better crisp and new for all but it is still losing to its competitors. Couple of stuffs like lack of application haunts it too and the price tag is quite high which is becoming a pitfall for Blackberry now.
Earlier this year Canonical also realized that it is high time to release their own OS and to make a good impression on the market they provided insight on Ubuntu OS for mobile. Firefox is also going to come up with something on this context and making OS for mobile.
So multiple vendors and so many mobile OS’s, and you should also not forget about some preliminary OS’s like Bada or Symbian etc. So do we really require any new OS? This January Samsung Inc. announced that they will be using Tizen as their new OS for smartphones. Well in early stages Nokia did experiment with Linux based OS and released Nokia N9, a consumer centric Linux OS based mobile phone and then moved out of it. After that it went under multiple folds of development and today it stands as a more crisp clear OS for mobile as announced by Tizen Community. Samsung’s’ Bada OS that is meant for the low end devices is fast fading away and even lower ranged devices are using Android as their main platform. Almost 95% of Samsung devices are powered by Android and for which they have to pay high royalty to Google.
Now is this the new way to avoid Google? Samsung has always wanted to have its own mobile OS and Tizen being open source might pave the way for it. But as expected it would have been used for the low-end devices but on January conference they announced that it would be using this for its new high-end mobile devices. We also saw that Samsung has already released their new Galaxy Branded Galaxy S4, which is powered by Android latest. It is very hard to say what is in stored for Samsung and Google, but it is for sure Samsung did contribute a huge amount on Android and took it to new levels, but it seems that something is going wrong for which they have decided to add Tizen to its segment too. It is time that will say what is going to be in this world of Mobile Devices and OS fight, but it is for sure the complexity is increasing for the service providers.
Service based organizations that mainly depend on developing applications that are targeted towards consumer will have a tough time. Consumer base is increasing and with new Mobile OS and platform opens up to new possibilities as well as complexity because now it will not be only Android and IOS but Tizen & Ubuntu also will come into context. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

The not-so-smart market shares of smart phones

We shouldn't be surprised if the latest IDC figures make Andy Rubin do it the Gangnam style. Android notched up 75% of the smartphone market share last quarter.

It's true that Android signs-up about 5 new users for every new iPhone user. But what the  statistics fail to highlight is that at least 3.5 times out of that 5, it's a fairly basic, relatively low spec & most likely buggy Android smart phone activated in some corner of the world. Since top-end Androids are Ice cream sandwiches or Jelly beans (or the fresher Jelly Bean 4.2)*, the Android version market share numbers make it a no-brainer to infer.

Let's talk about a Mr. Average Joe. Joe wants a new phone. And Joe picks up an Android phone be…cause: 
  1. Everybody around Joe is buying a ‘smart’ phone. Who wants to stay un-smart?
  2. The phone shop guy (sales girl on the phone) sings paeans about smartphones and how one would change Joe’s life (everyone’s pushing smartphones hoping to make some money once you enter that eco-system)
  3. The Android smart phone is a fairly affordable choice. It costs Joe the same/ a tiny bit more on contract as a non-smart phone. Who wants to stay un-smart when ‘smart’ costs just a few bucks more?

Joe does not buy the Android phone because he wants an ‘app for this & that’ or to leave an indelible mark on everybody’s timelines or to become the Superstar of the cafeteria he has lunch every day at with his mates. He may eventually try some of it because others are doing it. But these things don’t really matter when he picks up the Android. These are just nice to hear possibilities that made the few extra bucks worthwhile to spend. Most Joes end up regularly checking emails, indulging in a lil FB'ing, clicking & sending photos to family & friends and locating addressees on the map.

Now let’s talk things, ‘i’. The hallowed iPhone. Even Joe had heard on the news that the 5th avatar had come. But when the phone shop guy/ sales girl on phone tells him it’s ₹45,000/ $750/ £530 or a proportionately exorbitant amount every month, Joe doesn't pursue the topic any further. But then the phone shop guy/ sales girl tell him the happy news of the affordable Android that does all things that the iPhone does. And Joe loves it.
Joe would have made the necessary sacrifices to spend if was a believer in the Apple religion. But he isn't  For the middle-class budget conscious, the non-geek & the Comic Sans people (that’s most normal people), when they invest the kind of money that you have to spend to own an iPhone, it’s an unjustifiable overspend. It’s not the conscious ‘investment’ decision that fanbois, geeks & designers make driven by the desire for a digital lifestyle they wish to maintain; there’s hardly a correlation between their average monthly bank balance and the purchase decision. Or the nonchalant spend of the “my dad’s an ATM” tee wearing teenager, the rich show offs or the well-off professionals.

It’s amusing that many articles talk of the differences between the iPhone user & the Android user like it were of genetic origin. Doesn't this popular infographic about iPhone user vs. Android user just illustrate the rich –poor divide? The affluent buy iPhones. And the less privileged end up buying Androids because they don’t want to lag behind in the smartphone race (or simple they don’t want to look stupid.)

With Google starting to wage a price war with the new Nexus devices – the 4, 7 & 10, this divide would widen. If every Android device cost as much as an iOS device, the users would be similar, behave the same way and spend the same on a variety of apps. After all, there's nothing more behaviourally equalizing than affluence - the rich are the same, world over. It's the poor who add diversity (& IMHO make the world an interesting place.) And market reports & statistics would never capture this.

* Diabetics, steer clear of Androids! And someone investigate if people with a sweet tooth are more likely to buy an Android smartphone.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sarit Arora talks about Emerging UX Trends & Practices at 'd+b Talks'

Few days ago, Sarit Arora from Yahoo! visited our campus to give a talk on 'Emerging Interaction design trends and User Research for Innovation'. Sarit touched upon areas of evolving nature of UX complexity and providing emotional, rational and meaningful solutions. Particularly interesting was leveraging the new interaction patterns of touch devices, Natural User interfaces and thinking of bigger ecosystem to derive at a concept. You can view some of his thoughts in the presentation he showed us below -

Monday, 21 May 2012

This week at d+b talks

This week at d+b talks, Sarit Arora from Yahoo talks on 'Emerging Interaction Design Practices'
and 'User Research for Innovation'.

25 May 2012 (Friday), 3:30-4:30 PM IST. Leave a comment if you want to attend.