Mobile user expectations
We designers today spend a lot of time thinking and talking about mobile technology, but we really need to spend more time thinking about the users. They can access the learning, but they expect a lot more from designers and developers now than they did even a couple of years ago.
- Users want near real-time access to information in the palm of their hand
- They expect technical stability
- They want up-to-date, credible information and content
- They want our applications to work
Each of these expectations is a challenge to meet when we are dealing with multiple devices and operating systems in unpredictable combinations.
Furthermore, the majority of internet users will eventually—soon!—connect to our content with mobile devices first. In many Asian countries, they already do. Compared to 2011, consumers now spend 54 percent more time with their connected devices, 49 percent more time talking and texting, and 29 percent more time watching videos on their mobile devices.
What does it mean to us, as instructional designers and developers of learning content, if everyone is connecting with their phones and their tablets first? The message is clear: design for mobile first. We heard this message repeated many times at mLearnCon.
Let’s begin, then, by considering the users.
Mindsets for mobile online usage
You can convert all the courses you want to mobile, but why have them on a phone if the users’ minds are not into learning when they are using their mobile device?
One key aspect of any content strategy when you’re thinking mobile first is to fully understand user behavior. What are the users thinking? What is their experience like? As we all know, there’s a lot going on when someone has a mobile device in hand; usually other things are happening. Mobile mindsets are really interesting to think about when you are designing your content strategy.
People have a deeply personal connection with their connected devices, and this affects their consumption habits, activities, and accompanying mindsets. Are you ever without your mobile phone? Do you ever leave your house on purpose without your phone? For the most part, our phones are an extension of ourselves, a constant presence. A good place to start understanding the users is to look at their behaviors.
Here are (some of) the behaviors of mobile device users to keep in mind.
- Mobile users engage in short activity bursts. They pop open their phones, do something, and put the phone away.
- Mobile users move from one device to another very quickly. As users acquire more and more devices, they traverse between them, and they want to continue their experience between them: lay one down, pick another one up, and continue where they left off.
- One in three people multi-task with their devices. They have several things going on at any given time. We need to understand why people are doing that and take that into account in our design. How much of their attention is really focused on us, on our learning content? At the same time, they may be shopping online, texting to friends, or researching something.
- Most use of mobile devices happens between 8:30 AM and 1:00 PM. On average, people spend 47 minutes each day using their mobile devices, but that’s in chunks: a little bit here, a little bit there. It’s not all between 8:30 and 1:00, either.
People love their mobile devices, but why?
- Almost two-thirds of smartphone owners say that mobile devices allow them to access information that helps them in real-life circumstances. For example, people frequently get lost when they are new to a city, and phones with GPS help them figure out where they are and how to get where they are going.
- Sixty-five percent of mobile consumers agree that their mobile device quickly answers questions when they need an immediate response. Phones are fantastic performance support devices in real life. Should they do more? How can we design apps so that smartphones can do more performance support?
- This doesn’t directly affect learning, but nine out of 10 consumers with a mobile device have accessed it while in a retail store to do some type of research or to figure something out while they are at the moment of decision. It’s a behavior that probably carries over into other situations.
Native, web, or hybrid?
Many designers are developing apps for mobile learning. There are three different types of mobile apps: native, web (or browser), and hybrid.
This is the experience most people are used to with a mobile app: they discover it, they install it, they click it, and it runs. This is what they expect, and it’s more typical of the native app.
With a web app, the user doesn’t have the same sequence. Instead, the user finds the website, and then uses a mobile browser to access and use the app. However, the mindset for users, with respect to apps, is still “discover, install, click, run.” An organization without a native app, one with only a web app, may have a mindset issue. A company that offers a mobile-optimized web app may find that calling it an “app” confuses users, who want to go to the app store to download it.
Native apps must be downloaded to the device and installed on the device. We must write them in a language specific to the operating system (OS)—for example, Objective C, Java. Developers distribute native apps through an app store and make full use of the device hardware and APIs.
Why would consumers want a web app, rather than a native app? The biggest reason is interoperability across all platforms—the app will run on any device, regardless of operating system. However, it really comes down to a lot of factors when you are trying to figure out which way to go: resources, support, target devices, what your consumers expect, and so on.
A third way: hybrid apps
Many of the tablet apps, such as readers, are hybrids. Hybrids have the benefit of simpler data updates. With a hybrid, the app shell, which is a native app, can access the hardware (including the GPS, the camera, the audio, and so on). The user can download the app to a device and the app can access the API, but the content comes from the web. A lot of the tablet magazines are made this way. In our opinion, hybrid apps are the way to go.
Read the full article on Learning Solutions Magazine