Mobile User Experience Matters

I don’t want to just knock mobile phones. I might, at times, seem like I’m picking on handheld devices – but nothing could be further from the truth.

Looking back on my blog posts during the past year-or-so, it’s notable how many times I’ve written about mobile phones. It’s not that surprising. Mobility, after all, has changed consumer and business life – the mobile interface is fast-becoming the new desktop.

Yet while I appreciate the potential positive nature of this trend, it’s also clear to see that I loathe media and vendor hype. Just because people are using smart devices doesn’t mean we all need to jump on the same bandwagon.

Sometimes my stance seems strangely isolated. From iPhones to iPads, commentators are queuing up to pay homage to the latest Apple device. While Apple has undoubtedly created a tectonic shift in the traditional geography of computing, some semblance of moderation is always required.

First, the mobile market is actually fragmented. Rather than being simply dominated by the iPhone, Symbian and Research in Motion are able to command a larger proportion of market share – in fact, almost 50% of phones sold in 2009 included the Symbian operating system, according to analyst Gartner.

Second, many businesses are designing the wrong kinds of apps. Just as in the case of cloud computing and social media, the technology associated to smart phones is over-hyped. The result of such hype is that the business starts to become interested.

Just as an executive might read a feature in a business magazine on the cloud or Twitter, they’re also going to be aware of consumerisation and mobility. The result is an over-enthusiastic and technology-illiterate FD or CEO knocking on your door and asking when the firm is going to release an Apple-ready app.

You need to be prepared for such a conversation; if you’re not, you’ll repeat some of the mistakes of other leading organisations. Take smart phone banking, which research suggests is one of the fastest growing categories in mobile applications.

Yet as much as 40% of banking customers are not satisfied at all by their smart phone banking app, according to software firm Work Light. Most worryingly, almost a quarter of users indicate that a poor user experience is the main reason they do not use their app. Such figures illustrate quite clearly that there is absolutely no point designing an app without careful consideration.

By all means, be swayed by the call for marketing and create a smart phone app. But don’t be platform specific, not everyone has an iPhone. And don’t – above everything else – forget the customer experience.

Fail to create a great user interface and you will be left with yet another poorly supported IT project that still needs to be maintained. There is another way, so think before you develop.

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Dharmesh Mistry is the CTO/COO of Edge IPK, a leading provider of front-end Web solutions. Within his blog, “Facing up to IT”, Dharmesh considers a number of technology issues, ranging from Web 2.0, SOA and Mobile platforms, and how these impact upon business. Having launched some of the very first online financial services in 1997, and since then delivering online solutions to over 30 FS organisations and pioneering Single Customer View (Lloyds Bank, 1989) and Multi Channel FS (Demonstrated in Tomorrow’s World in 99), Dharmesh can be considered a true veteran of both the Financial Services and Technology industries.