Mobile users don’t do that

From: Stephanie Rieger

The conversation often starts like this…

“Mobile users won’t want to do that, they’re ‘on the go’ and will be in a hurry or want  a quick distraction.”

This is true, except when it’s not.

Study after study reveals people use their mobile at home, while watching TV. People also use mobile devices for hours while waiting on trains and at airports. For each user who is in a hurry there will be another who stares intently at their device for 20-30 minute stints. If that devices happens to be a tablet, they may use it for even longer periods. And while many users will simply be consuming content, others will be shopping, banking, or performing other very specific tasks.

“Ok, but some mobile users will still be in a hurry. Shouldn’t we cater to them? Make things extra simple for them?”

Agreed. Mobile users will curse up and down if they can’t do that really useful, common, important thing really quickly. Any chance you have to focus and trim copy, streamline interactions, or minimise data input should be considered.

But why exactly are we only fixing things for mobile users?

Desktop users may have a bit more time on their hands, but does it mean we should waste it with happy talk, redundant data entry, or poorly optimised interactions? If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve had to input Edinburgh, choose United Kingdom or specify today’s date in a menu I’d be rich by now. Modern browsers make it much simpler to implement intelligent defaults. Why should it only be a mobile thing?

“Ok. But we still can’t implement all features for small screens. Some things are just too complicated.” 

Agreed. Completing a life insurance form on a mobile (or BTW on the desktop and on paper) is really complicated. That doesn’t mean people won’t try it, and even that is besides the point.

Let’s look at it a bit differently…

First off, what is the traffic for this feature on the desktop?

If traffic (and completion rates) are high, shouldn’t you seriously consider including it in the mobile roadmap, even if it will be hard to implement (or may involve additional testing and come in a later phase)?

And if the traffic is low, why is that? Maybe the feature isn’t actually needed, or maybe it’s too hard to use (or find) on the desktop as well.

Kayak recently tweaked their desktop site to bring it in line with the simplicity of their mobile offering. One of the steps they took was to remove rarely used features, to better focus on optimising higher traffic ones.

Also worth considering that people who suffer through impossibly complex (or broken) features on a tiny screen are either really desperate, or are power users who simply want to get stuff done…wherever they happen to be at the time. As acquisition typically costs much more than retention, are these really the people you want to disappoint?

And don’t forget, some of these devices are also phones :-)

Sometimes a well placed voice call or SMS can save the day. Yell.com (and several travel sites) recently implemented a “Call Us” feature for those times when despite their best efforts, what a user wants to do is just too complicated (or maybe not yet supported). If a user is about to bail, the ‘best UX’ is one that provides them with a handy one-click life raft.

PS – You will lose points however for displaying a “Call Us” button on a device that can’t actually place a call. If you provide a life raft, be sure it actually floats.