5 Mobile Experience Design Trends to Try Now

5 Mobile Experience Design Trends to Try Now

With new technology being rolled out regularly, we designers have a fantastic opportunity to use new tools and methods to improve the products we create for mobile experiences. This is our time to marry content, personalization, voice interactions, microinteractions, and video to produce unique experiences that will attract and impress users for years to come.

With 2018 well underway, I’d like to review five important experience trends that are bound to make a deep impact this year and will likely continue to define the way in which apps are developed in the years ahead.

 

1. Being Content-Centered

 

Our clients often look to us for the most effective means of distributing their content in a way that services the users and provides the client with reliable and quality data.

“Time is of the essence” has never been a truer statement. Users have super-short attention spans (Hubspot reports only about 8 seconds or so) that shrink more every year. Seconds matter – so while design can be pretty, more importantly, it needs to be purposeful. If we aren’t designing to make the content the most important aspect of each screen, then we are failing our clients and most importantly, users.

While designing around content that has yet to be provided is far from ideal, there are a few workarounds. You can always default to the popular Lorem Ipsum placeholder text, or you could try using the content that’s being replaced from your client’s current site, create your own, or borrow from a competitor’s site.

By using text and color as interactive design elements, you can strategically create quick, vibrant, and delightful user experiences that expedite the user’s journey with a content-centered experience. Keep it simple. You don’t want to overwhelm your users with too much information.

This insurance app does a great job of displaying multiple options in a visually simple way, both in a tab and main menu format.

 

content-centered-insurance-app

Image Credit: Nimasha Perara

2. Personalization

 

Personalization is one of the most frequently requested features in user interviews. Weather content, design, or navigation, users like to feel connected with the user interface. If there’s a pattern of disconnect, they will likely not want to return, especially given a user’s ever-shrinking attention span.

Personalization can be achieved in a number of ways, including:

  • Enabling cookies on websites to remember what users prefer on your site
  • Implementing location tools on mobile to remind users of their interests
  • Incorporating the seasons or holidays to create a user experience that feels current and relative, and allowing users to create profiles to customize their experience.

More often than not, people are more inclined to share negative experiences than positive ones, so it is imperative that we are creating a more intuitive experience for our users. If users feel a connection with a website or app, they will want to return and hopefully share their positive experiences.

The animation below highlights one of Shockoe’s latest customizable interfaces for a banking application. We helped create a mobile experience that allowed members to customize which cards they land on first, allowing users to get their most important information faster.

 

shockoe-banking-app-personalization

3. Voice Interaction

 

There is no denying the impact that Siri, Alexa, and Google have made on our usability. My seven-year-old daughter chats up Alexa regularly — asking for songs, to make animal noises, and even a few weeks back, asked if she was married! I find this to be a testament to what next-generation interaction looks like and the importance of adopting it sooner rather than later.

Over 30 million households now have voice interaction tools, which is incredible! The rise of voice interaction will undoubtedly drive the increase of designing without an interface. Good UX seeks the path of least resistance, and voice interaction certainly bypasses any friction that may have existed in a physical UI.

Over 30 million households now have voice interaction tools, Click To Tweet

When designing for voice interactions, experienced designers will need to to take into account many new considerations. Providing users with suggestions may help alleviate confusion when the system doesn’t understand the command or cannot produce the desired result. For example, you could have a retail app say: “You can ask to order shoes or browse shoes.” You should also consider providing the user with an easy way out by offering “leave” as an option.

Is the mic even on? Users will need to know when the AI they’re chatting with is paying attention and when there might be a problem.

 

voice-interaction

Image Credit: Juan C. Angustia

4. Microinteractions

 

Engaging with microinteractions is one of my favorite things when using an app. Microinteractions are simply subtle design effects based around completing a task. These tiny interactions bring a level of delight to a user experience. If implemented correctly, these in-app gestures and animations can reduce design clutter, increase intuitiveness, and make interaction almost seamless. Fewer buttons on a screen mean more focused content, and we all know that having the right content, is king.

Medium has a controversial “clapping” interaction, as an alternative way to “like” an article you’ve read. Love them or hate them, these tiny claps with fireworks are both silly and cute enough to have caused a plethora of blog posts both praising and cursing the change from “likes” to “claps”. Humans inherently hate change, so it’s not surprising that bloggers took to the Internet to vent about this change, just as they did with Instagram’s iconic logo change a few years back. Change is sometimes a necessary evil — it’s where great ideas stem from. I for one applaud medium for taking the bold step to attempt to improve usability.

With microinteractions, there is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the user and the app through fun and satisfying actions that leave users emotionally content – they help engage users to interact with tasks intuitively, like express appreciation with likes or favorites, navigate sites with subtle animated transitions, or filling out form fields with hint text.

Predictive microinteractions can provide directive animations to assist users with onboarding, making it more delightful and ultimately, less confusing

 

microinteractions

Image Credit: Leo Zakour

5. Fullscreen & Vertical Video

 

In 2017, the use of videos surged as a marketing medium. Hubspot reports that 81% of businesses utilized videos as a marketing tool and nearly 100% of those businesses say they’ll continue to do so in 2018. 65% of the businesses that didn’t use videos in 2017 say they are planning to in 2018.

Words are important, but with videos, users are able to experience a more interactive form of content while also consuming more information in a shorter amount of time. This is another form of putting content front and center in a way that doesn’t force users to scroll. With AR and VR becoming more common, a full-screen video will inevitably become the norm, providing users with a more immersive: personally-impactful experience that will give them more of an emotional connection. When users are immersed in another person’s experience, be it skiing the slopes, walking in an impassioned protest, exploring caves, or learning a new DIY project, they are bound to have a richer and deeper connection with the content.

As video content infiltrates our favorite sites and apps, users tend to keep their mobile devices in portrait mode, rather than turning them horizontally for a full-width view. According to LukeW, 94% of users view their content in portrait mode, while only 6% view content in landscape mode, thus the obvious need to provide users with the option to view all content, including video, in portrait mode.

Apple’s new Clip app offers users fullscreen AR selfies similar to Snapchat’s World Lenses. Mashable reports that Clip will offer an animated 360° scene that you can experience by moving the camera around.

 

fullscreen-vertical-app-video

Image Credit: Apple

 

facebook-live-video-app

Facebook Live Video. Image Credit Buzzfeed

Other Experience Trend Shoutouts

 

Since I couldn’t list every single popular experience trend to look for in 2018 and beyond, I wanted to at least show some love to a couple more experiences worth mentioning.

AR and VR

Quickly evolving into affordable and viable options for both enterprises and consumers. Whether you’re looking for augmented/virtual entertainment or augmented/virtual training, this medium has yet to surface its full potential. As AR and VR continue to find great ubiquity and user acceptance, think about how this technology could advance the medical, construction, aeronautics, and engineering fields in the years ahead.

Biometrics

It may seem new, and it sort of is, but since Apple released the iPhone X’s biometric face identification feature, it appears the bar has risen in security authentication. Fingerprint authorization is now common in comparison. Biometrics will continue to innovate and demand designers and developers to push the envelope when considering the user’s privacy and security concerns. Designers will need to keep in mind the willingness of their users to participate in the functionality and devs will need to remember that biometrics don’t protect against passcodes or tokens being shared. They’re simply new ways for users to gain access to their data without being too inconvenienced with passcode interruptions.

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps – Part 1 of 2

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps – Part 1 of 2

Retail banking consumers now prefer using their mobile devices more than any other bank interaction, which makes a mobile app a primary component of overall customer satisfaction. With greater ease switching banking providers at a moment of dissatisfaction, banks need to place extra emphasis on keeping their customers happy and loyal. This starts by giving customers the best tools available and a user experience that helps them access and navigate their banking needs without difficulty. Read more about our design tips for banking apps below. 

 

For the first section of this two-part series, we will cover examples of best practices that we have seen play a role in facilitating engagement and improving the user experience.

Any questions surfacing as you read? Give us a ring! You can always connect with us here.

 

Search & Navigation Part 1

Content Part 1

Guidance Part 2, coming soon

Privacy & Security Part 2, coming soon

Appearance Part 2, coming soon

 

 

Search & Navigation

search-navigation-components-of-app-satisfaction

According to J.D. Power, ‘Ease of Navigating’ is the key differentiator among top-performing mobile banking apps. If a consumer can find what they need in the app, this often yields a happy customer. This satisfaction can also impact bank operations by reducing calls to support centers with potentially aggravating wait times.

 

Let’s jump head first into some easily-executed ideas to help improve your app’s search & navigation as early as today.

 

Easy Login

 

Biometric logins such as fingerprint, face, or voice can facilitate a client’s access to their account.

easy-login-biometric-one-touch

Personalization Capabilities

 

Some banks give the user the ability to customize their application experience to their needs making each visit one that addresses their specific needs.

personalization-personalize

Using Navigation Icons with Label

 

An icon is meant to be universally recognized, but in many cases, they are not. It’s always a safe bet to provide a label next to the icon to provide clarity.

 

using-navigation-icons-with-labels

Use Plain & Simple English

 

Avoid using branded names that might be intuitive to your company, but not to a user. In short: use plain English when possible.

 

use-plain-simple-english-branded-names

 

Transaction History Search

 

Most banking apps default to filtering transaction history by date. Giving the user the ability to search their account is one more way to facilitate finding that specific transaction they have in mind.

 

transaction-history-search

Appwide Search

 

Few banks offer app-wide search to locate features & information. It might just be what your clients needed to discover new or undiscovered features.

 

appwide-search-my-bank

Clear ‘Back’ Access

 

Avoid using a home icon or cancel in place of a back.

 

clear-back-access-button

Autofill/Type-Ahead Searching

 

We continue to be surprised at the number of banks not make use of this simple yet effective interaction. Your customers will be thrilled to have it implemented.

autofill-type-ahead-searching

Content

 

The content that users access in-app should be concise, easy to find, easy understand, and help them reach their goals—simple right? Here are a few ideas:

 

Key Information Front and Center

 

Some applications give users the choice to view account their account balances before login.

 

key-information-front-center

 

Helpful Services

 

Provide customers with additional services that could help them reach their financial goals.

 

helpful-services

 

Real-Time Alerts

 

Use real-time alerts to keep customers informed on important account updates such as direct deposits, personal information changes, and bill due dates.

 

real-time-alerts

 

Avoid Hiding Information

 

Some banks hide interest rates behind an extra tap or elaborate application process. Be nice to customers and let them know what they need to know.

 

avoid-hiding-information

 

Avoid Jargon-Heavy Content

 

Avoid words such as Debit, Payee, APR — instead use Withdrawal, Recipient, Interest Rate.

 

avoid-jargon-heavy-content

Guidance Part 2, coming soon

Privacy & Security Part 2, coming soon

Appearance Part 2, coming soon

 

Editor’s note: 

We know you’re thirsty for more. Part 2 will be coming very soon! While you wait, check out our latest thoughts on UX Strategy for Banks. 

Have any additional questions or want to discuss what Shockoe can do for you? Click here to connect with us. 

4 Tips in Designing a Retail Inventory Management App

4 Tips in Designing a Retail Inventory Management App

When designing a retail inventory application that will streamline a client’s business, it’s crucial to do a lot of heavy lifting in the preliminary stages of design to ensure that the transition from the client’s old system to their new app is seamless, intuitive, and incorporates just what they need to get the job done right. From concept to delivery, the retail inventory app design process requires research, attention to detail, inspiration, testing, and refining. By keeping the following key points in mind during the design process, you can be sure to deliver a quality app that your client and their employees will love.

1.) Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs

Prior to diving into a design project, it’s important to ask the right questions in order to understand 1) why the business prioritized this project, 2) the process/tasks employees are being asked to do, and which parts are the most challenging, and 3) how the system (including APIs) works in order to design around limitations or suggest changes accordingly. These questions are crucial, along with other obvious questions, like what equipment/device does the client foresee using, how many stores do they have, how many employees will be using this solution, who has admin privileges, and how will admin use differ from that of general employees? This initial info-gathering stage is key in the design process because having the team and the stakeholders “in the know” is necessary when making a polished, efficient, and effective app that everyone is proud of.  

design_agile_shockoe

2.) Find out What the App Users Need 

Once you’re confident with the client-provided requirements data, the interview process should transition from the stakeholders to their employees. Sitting behind a screen, it can be easy to gloss over seemingly minor details, but those minor details can impact the people on the other end and affect their job performance daily.  By focusing on details such as how the user will input data to the app and how they will maneuver around in it, you will be able to design a new system that will be effective and intuitive for all users and will replace outdated systems that might require quirky shortcuts and workarounds. Vital to this step is gathering client data, studying the data, and researching and implementing said research, all the while incorporating your interview results with the employees/users. If you don’t understand their procedures, keep the dialogue going until you understand their daily routine, in order to provide them with the solutions they’re looking for.

app-user-needs

3.) Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design

Once you have all the details worked out, start working out the app flow. Put the pen to the paper, the markers to the whiteboard, and let the heavy brainstorms pour inspired innovative ideas. This process will require multiple iterations and failures so you can reach the holy grail of design solutions for your client. In order to achieve this level of design fruition, you will need to research design trends (Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance), your client’s app (if they have one), and their competitors’ apps (if they have them). Expand your design horizon outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be satisfied with safe designs; mediocre designs don’t break any new ground or impress clients. That being said, try not to reinvent the wheel either. It’s great to have inspiration, but it’s up to you to be innovative while also staying intuitive.

intuitive-design

4.) Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now that you have shiny, impressive, and modern designs, it’s time to test. Your design has to exceed expectations. So, even though you’ve interviewed a variety of people, researched every corner of Google, and spent countless hours in Sketch, Xd, or your design app of choice, you still need to test the app out.

The testing results will likely incur some redesigns, as any good test would. It’s important to ensure that the user flow makes sense, which is why you’ll test your prototypes with the client’s employees. Remember, these employees are the experts in their job field. They know what they need to complete their job successfully and what will make their day-to-day work routine more efficient. Listen to their every complaint, concern, and compliment. Redesigns can be fun. They often make us rethink what we thought we knew or understood. This could be a eureka moment for a designer, their team, and possibly the client. At most, it should only require some simple, but effective, design tweaks in order for the user to know what’s what. So tweak away, tighten it up, and bust out of your design bubble. Find the sweet spot everyone’s looking for and apply your groundbreaking ideas to your designs. Finally, make sure any, and I mean any, user will know how your designs work—intuitively.

test-your-design

Key Points to Remember

Be sure to keep these points in mind when designing an app for retail inventory solutions:

  • Listen: The stakeholders typically have a good idea of what they’re looking for.
  • Answer these essential questions:
    • Why does the business (client) want this app? Know their KPI (Very important!)
    • How does the system currently work? (APIs and integration)
    • What are the client’s current pain points? (This is where we can REALLY help, by improving on what doesn’t currently work.)
    • What works? (What do employees like about the current system?)
    • What type of equipment are you designing the app for? (What type of device will employees use to access the app? Will they need a sling or a harness if they’re unloading a truck?)
    • What is the client’s budget? (A necessary evil.)
  • Follow up. Have constant communication and keep everyone in the loop. Interview the client’s employees to make sure you’re including everything they need to do their job well.
  • Prototype your designs, and see what works and what might need to be tweaked or rethought to make the app intuitive and easy to use.
  • There’s always room for improving the design until you get it right.

Look Towards the Future

Once your super-powered retail inventory app is developed, there will be updates, which require continued communication between you and the client. It’s your job (and ours) to help clients succeed. When our clients are successful, so are we. Together, we can conquer the world—one app at a time.

Editor’s Note: 

If you’re interested in reading about our most recent work for a retailer, check out A.C. Moore Case Study and the Inventory Management App our team has created for this retailer’s team.

You can also watch the full Case Study Video for A.C. Moore here.

3 Tips to Start Using Motion in Design

3 Tips to Start Using Motion in Design

Motion connects the designers and developers who are working on a mobile application with its users. Scrolling, navigating through screens, and adding or editing content may all be inherent features of an app in 2017, but the app still needs to feel right. UX designers live for the challenge of making an app feel right to the user, and motion is one tool in their arsenal. As Shockoe tackles mastering this tool, here are three tips for how to start thinking about integrating motion into your designs.

Tip 1: Show the Relation

You’ve put in the work, made the sitemap, and even mapped out the flow. You know exactly how to get from Screen A to Screen Z. Do your users? It’s important to make sure your users will be able to navigate the app with the same fluidity you do. Probably the best option for ensuring this is one of the simplest: show your user where the screens are coming from.

Navigating from the leftmost tab to the one on the right? Show that by pushing your current content off-screen to the left, making room for the new content coming in from the right. Google Play Music is a fantastic example of how an entirely new page can originate from a single, much smaller element. It shows the growth of that element into a full page.

Tip 2: Don’t Lose the Users

This touches a bit on the last point, but it is key that you don’t confuse your users or lose them in a complicated motion. If you have too many elements moving in too many directions, or even one element moving too far, you may run into some problems.

An example of what to do and what not to do both come from different implementations of the same feature in different versions of the Android operating system. On devices that ran Android M, there was a hovering search bar at the top of the home screen. This was a great addition, bringing a Google search right to the forefront of the user’s most-frequented screen. As you might expect, the search automatically offered suggestions as the user typed.

On the newest Pixel 2, that search bar has been moved to the bottom of the home screen, just under the app drawer and just above the software buttons. A UX/hardware issue is solved here by allowing users to reach their search bar more easily, but a visual transition issue is created. When the user taps the new bottom-anchored search bar, it acts like before and is now on the top of the screen, populating your autofill search results. This is probably nit-picking and just requires some getting used to, but it makes the search bar feel like more of an “activation” and not a true, transforming element on the device’s screen. That takes away a bit of what made that simplicity in movement so special.

Tip 3: Have Some Fun. Find It, If You Have To

This point applies to everyone in design, but it holds special weight in designing motion as there is so much that can be done. This is more for your own sanity, but it’s very important in every project to have even a little fun, and not nearly enough people value taking a moment to do so. A solid check for this is looking inward and thinking about what you would want to see an app do.

Take 15 minutes, grab your notebook and a pencil, create some sketches, and just … go with it. Look at what’s been done in other apps, what hasn’t, and find what works for you. Don’t limit yourself to the mobile realm for inspiration; consider television shows, video games, etc., as well. The kind of work we’re most proud of is typically the work we enjoy making, so be sure to explore every corner of your creativity when designing motion.

So what are your thoughts?

Hopefully, these tips have helped you start thinking about the ways you can use motion in your designs. In this post, we touched on the basics of motion; we look forward to expanding on these ideas in a future post that dives deeper into the nitty-gritty details on how to make motion work in your apps. As you start integrating motion into your projects, reach out and let us know what you think, if you have any thoughts to add, or if these tips have helped you out in any way.

Editor’s Note: 

Want more tips on Design? Check out our most recent blogs:

10 Commandments of Designing for Accessibility Every Designer Needs to Know

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

How to Create Moodboards that Help You Better Understand Your Client

How to Create Moodboards that Help You Better Understand Your Client

For new design projects, blank artboards can strike fear in many designers. Approaching a new task with a blank slate is never easy, especially under a deadline or without a clear objective. That blank rectangle can be the biggest block to any momentum in getting a project moving. But don’t despair! Using mood boards can help kick off any design project and remove the fear of directionless design.

What is a mood board?

A mood board is a collection of style—like color, texture, UI framework, or theme—that visually unifies a set of images. Part of what makes the tool so valuable is how malleable mood boards are to each project. Each board simply needs a cohesive connector that all the elements on the board stem from.

For example, this board shows off monochromatic color schemes:

And this one shows different examples of Google’s material design applied to different screens:

 

Having a theme to draw them together allows design teams and clients to react to different conceptual directions, allowing for different ideas to be explored early and with little time.

When should you use mood boards?

Mood boards should be implemented early. They are a fairly low-investment tool that you can use to get in step with your client/stakeholder/design lead early on. With clients at Shockoe, we use them early in our design process to get a sense of the client’s needs and tastes while also exploring some potential directions without burning too much time.

Potential times to bring mood boards into projects: Early design discussions, design concept pitching, stakeholder exercises.

How to make mood boards:

There are many ways to develop useful mood boards. When planning out boards, a great way to start is to define your audience. Is the purpose of the mood board for you to discover tones and feels? Is it to guide a client or stakeholder in a certain direction? Defining your audience and purpose will help shape the direction of boards to create productive discussion.

Want to explore different color options? Group different items of the same color to get a feel of the application.

Want to look into different design systems? Show them together, or back to back.

It really helps to have a log of potential approaches and looks to help influence the direction of the project and discuss options before running with a certain design.

I tend to approach my mood boards in three steps: Think, Collect, and Organize.

1: Think

Starting out, I write down as much information as I can. I try to roll up all my knowledge on the project so far and start thinking of things I want to use for inspiration, like colors, products to be inspired by, people or places that should influence or impact the design, or just cool anecdotes I can recall from earlier meetings with a client.

2: Collect

After the brainstorming step, I create a project folder to store assets. I keep anything and everything I find interesting in that folder that could be used in the project. Pinterest and Dribbble are obvious choices when searching for inspiration, but I also find lots of really interesting ideas by looking at different mediums. Furniture, architecture, and game design blogs have all provided great ideas to consider for potential inspiration.

3: Organize

From here, I use my favorite tool for mood boards to collect and organize the different images designers and I have curated: Google Slides.

 

 

 

 

 

Google Slides acts as a fantastic repo to collect and organize thoughts. The ability to collaborate with other designers makes the tool even more awesome when working on larger design teams.

When laying out designs, I find it useful to pick a lead image and then build out elements around it. That way when discussing the project with a design director or client, you can orient the discussion around that image and define your intent with a style in that direction.

Presenting boards

The last step of using mood boards in design is getting a sense of which way to run when it comes time to start the actual design process. I’ve always enjoyed the candid and open discussion around mood boards. Planning out how you want the discussion to go will really help create a structured conversation that will benefit both you and the client. By knowing the discussion you want to have around the boards, you are able to ensure that the feedback you receive provides clear direction so you are not left with that dreaded blank artboard rectangle.

If you’re ever in a stalemate about which way a client thinks a project should go, or if you want to feel out some new or riskier design directions, mood boards are a fantastic tool to quickly define a style and explore different routes for the project. Don’t stare at blank art boards—go make mood boards!

Notes from Editor:

You can find more design blogs from our team on our blog page.

[INFOGRAPHIC] 10 Commandments of Designing for Accessibility Every Designer Needs to Know

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

Shockoe Ranks No. 499 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 with Three-Year Sales Growth of 900%

Shockoe Ranks No. 499 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 with Three-Year Sales Growth of 900%

Richmond, VA – Shockoe, a leading disruptor in the design and development of advanced mobile solutions, is honored to announce that it has been ranked No. 499 by Inc. Magazine in the 36th annual Inc. 5000, an exclusive list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. This list represents the culmination of a review and ranking of one of the most important sectors in the American economy today – the entrepreneurs. It’s an honor to be named in a list where many of today’s well-known companies gained their first national exposure as honorees of the Inc. 5000, such as Microsoft, Zappos, Jamba Juice, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp and Zillow.

We are tremendously proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the past few years and feel honored to be included amongst an exclusive and impressive list of growing companies on the Inc. 500,” says CEO Edwin Huertas of Shockoe.com. “Our growth over the years can be directly attributed to an incredible team and their ability to create innovative solutions for today’s ever-changing market coupled with the capacity to solve the most pressing challenges organizations face.”

The 2017 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available on newsstands August 16) is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year average growth of 481%. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue is $206 billion, and the companies on the list collectively generated 619,500 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Shockoe:
Shockoe is a leader in the development of advanced mobile solutions focused on increasing sales, end-user experiences and employee productivity. Since our founding in 2010, our emphasis on today’s mobile consumer and end-user have helped us grow into a global consulting firm with a unique combination of mobile strategy, experience design, development, and integration. Our solutions have strong returns on investment, deliver excellent user experiences, and adhere to the best practices in security and reliability.

6 Lessons in Building Mobile Experiences for Non Profits

6 Lessons in Building Mobile Experiences for Non Profits

During the course of publishing a pro-bono mobile experience for the non-profit Roatan Marine Park out of the Bay Islands, Honduras, something struck a chord with the Bill Nye bobblehead that sits on my left shoulder. Where’s the category for Changing the World? it whispered.

There isn’t one. For the Roatan app, RMP iPatrol, which allows citizens to report illegal activity harmful to the surrounding Mesoamerican reef – the world’s second largest – our best options were Education or Travel.

In the process of writing this post, I went to the Play store to see what showed up. Following the games and ‘entertain yourself’ recommendations, this is an example of the apps displayed:

Granted, this was on my work account. As a designer at Shockoe, I work on a lot of enterprise apps that often aren’t accessible via the app store, but I also download, assess, test, and work on all types of consumer mobile applications, including those for rewards programs, tasty drinks (still can’t get over that callout), financial and social. It makes sense that I’d have a very commercial constellation of recommended apps.

There are roughly 2.5 – 3 million apps available on the respective app stores and, based on sheer volume, gaming still smashes all other categories. It’s not a leap to say that in terms of engagement the winners are those that could be referred to as “bored now” – games and social apps that are designed to fill your time and attention when you’re in the waiting room, lunch break, or refusing to fall asleep.

The popularity of gaming, social, and entertainment apps isn’t likely to change, but what can is our commitment to bringing effective mobile solutions to the Davids out there battling on our behalf.

I have kept an approving eye on things like Civic Hacking, Citizen Science, and Tech for Good, but my appreciation for how powerful mobile could be in the non-profit, changing the world space – particularly for reporting, data collection, and community building – has me convinced that David’s slingshot is primed for an update.

Based on conversations with a non-profit client and my own experiences, here are a few considerations for those looking to do their part in making mobile apps for good.

1. Make sure you are willing (and able) to commit to the problem, not just an app

Firms should pursue issues that they care about and that the company will wholeheartedly get behind. Coming into a non-profit project with a one-and-done type mindset – swoop in, build a quick app, slaps on the backs, then it’s back to work as usual – at best will provide temporary fixes. At worst it will alienate users with sub-par experiences due to being outdated and unsupported. We need be taking these projects on like we normally approach apps – as products that require constant improvements, maintenance, and validation that we are indeed solving the problem we set out to solve.

2. Think Enterprise and Platform

Regardless of what issue your app seeks to solve, other non-profits are probably working in the same space and on similar problems. Consider the benefits of building an adjustable/scalable framework that could be tailored for specific needs. Time spent on APIs and scalable architecture is almost always time well spent. If you want to track the health of monarch butterfly populations/migrations it wouldn’t make much sense to gather data in one county. You build a monarch tracking app, make it publicly available, and have a central database with easily surfaced data that researchers everywhere can access.

3. Consider the lessons from models in community and contributor-driven apps

There is a subtle power in the give-and-take nature of community driven apps. Waze has a huge and fanatic volunteer contributor community. The app works almost entirely on the goodwill of the driving community (and some algorithms, GPS, and other cool stuff). Benefitting from the contributions of others creates a compelling feeling to return the favor and an emotional reward for doing so. You see the same type of situation in plant identification apps, car repair forums, and countless others. It pays to study up on the mechanics of people helping people to do a collective task.

4. Be a good coach

Especially if you’re working with a smaller non-profit, it’s likely that there is no CTO, CIO, IT department, or perhaps anyone who has done a technical project. This is an opportunity to be a great coach (and evaluate your own process). Be clear about how the project will work and what you need from them. Explain acronyms and jargon. Your goal, as hopefully, it is with every project, is to share knowledge and impart confidence.

5. Resist the temptation to experiment or deviate from your standard process

Steer clear of using your non-profit project to experiment with your process or throw a junior team into a sink-or-swim, figure-it-out situation. I have heard it from more than one person working in the non-profit space that they rarely receive the same quality or level of professionalism from companies that are donating services. The standards you hold to yourself shouldn’t be variable. Don’t make an exception.

6. Respect each other’s timelines and responsibilities.

During research for this post, one NGO employee told me, “people seem to think that people who work in NGO’s are running around hugging trees all day, that they don’t have deadlines, that they don’t have the same if not more administration to do as any other business.”

In my experience, employees at non-profits often do have more responsibilities than their counterparts at standard businesses. Lack of resources forces everyone to wear more hats. Be cognizant going into a project that the folks leading the charge often have so much on their shoulders that even if they love the project it can turn into one more burden on a pile of others that leads to stress.

If that’s the case, our approach as consultants should be either to 1) assume as much ownership over the project as can be done without jeopardizing the expertise/institutional knowledge the NGO brings and/or 2) be hyper-aware of (and plan for) client-side deadlines/responsibilities.

I am convinced that mobile can play an important role in bringing about the types of changes that would benefit us all. Consider the following (in a non-judgemental, shame-free way): in 2017 we are projected to hit nearly 5 billion mobile users worldwide. [source]. As of last year, we were collectively spending over a billion hours a month on mobile games alone, second only to social media usage. [source]. Imagine the impact we could make if we all had at least one app on our phones that allowed us to contribute to solving a community issue, or if we spent just 1% of our gaming hours on cataloging invasives or mentoring young folks, or, as residents of Roatan now can, reporting damage to coral reef systems.

Better yet, find what you care about and let’s make it happen.

[Note: I acknowledge that things are rarely as simple or black and white as some of the references or points above. Mobile isn’t a silver bullet, but it also does a lot on its own already – apps bring healthcare to rural populations and information to the underserved, Waze cuts drive times which in turn cut down CO2 emissions, business apps cut paper waste and improve efficiencies. But still. We can do more.]

Editor: Learn more about the Roatan Marine Park project and how Shockoe is contributing to saving the world’s second largest reef.

Read what our partner, Axway, is saying about RMP iPatrol.

If you’re interested in getting started on your own idea, reach out here for more information.

3 Ways to Improve User Engagement on Your Mobile Solution

3 Ways to Improve User Engagement on Your Mobile Solution

After months of development, your app finally makes it onto the app store. However, a few weeks later, you take a look at the app’s analytics to find an unexpectedly high number of total uninstalls.

Why are users deleting your app and what can you do to improve user engagement?

1. Improve User Onboarding
A crucial, often overlooked process in designing an app is the user onboarding process. User onboarding is essentially the method in which the app introduces itself to a new user. Within the first few minutes of use, your app should make a solid first impression.

Resolution:
– Start the app off with a friendly tour to get the user acquainted with the main features
– Highlight features one at a time – do not overwhelm your user with introductions to all of the features at once
– Place mission critical information upfront and concisely
– Place user values upfront – You want the user to envision how they will be using your app in their day to day life as soon as possible.

Below are a few examples on user onboarding on Winn Dixie. Our UX and UI designers put great care into the onboarding strategy– putting the designs through various critiques and presentations with the client. User Onboarding testing was implemented as early as wireframes.

Winn Dixie app Iphone iOS

Winn Dixie grocery app

Winn Dixie App Grocery

2. Reduce Clicks
Ideally, a user wants to use the least amount of clicks to get to the information they want. Information or features buried into tabs and menus may infuriate users trying to accomplish a simple task. Sometimes the cost of effort may not be worth the payoff for a user.

Resolution:
To resolve these pains, consider bringing in various testers as early as the design phase. Sometimes paper prototypes can be very telling of a user’s engagement of an app based off something as simple as an app’s layout. Reduce the amount of effort a user has to make by designing the method of navigation with well-defined paths.

3. Debug your app

On first glance through reviews of a low rated app, the number one issue reported by users is: the app is buggy and keeps crashing. The bane to any user on any software is one that they can not use properly. Buggy apps can be caused by a multitude of occurrences. Here are the top three reasons why your app may be buggy and bugging your customers away:
– Android or iOS hardware and software have updated causing your app to be out of date
– Uncaught memory leaks
– Weak user testing

Late last year to in anticipation for the release of iOS 10, the Shockoe development team thoroughly prepared by catching up on documentation and thumbing through depreciated features. Apps like 21st Century were given an update to ensure that the app would not be out of date. Changes included improvements to security and touch ups on depreciated UI features.

Resolution:
Test the app thoroughly to find as many bugs as possible and prepare another cycle of development! At the end of development, put the app through another round of testing to ensure that your app is functioning as ideally as possible.

Positive user engagement is essential to maintaining users. While the suggested improvements drive to enhance user experience on your app, be prepared to take note and study of how these methods impact user interaction. Taking a closer look into what propels users to continue to use your app or what you find users interacting the most within your app will greatly help you analyze and improve positive points in your mobile solution.

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