Mobile Apps: User Expectations define User Experience

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how users’ expectations of an app affect the user experience, especially as it relates to mobile development.

As an example: the native Google Maps iPhone app vs the mobile web Maps app.

Both are fantastic apps in their own right, but why are they both awesome apps? The native app is clearly faster to launch, it handles pinch-zoom fluidly, address and bookmark integration, transitions between views keep my context with nice animations. The mobile web app has none of that. It’s slower, the map loads slower, zoom and pan aren’t as fluid, transitions between views are non-existent. All things being equal, the native app is the clear winner, yet my user experience is overall positive for both apps. Why?

Before either app is even launched, the user expectation for each app is properly set to provide that positive user experience.

When a user fires up maps.google.com in Mobile Safari, they’re blown away with how well it responds to touch input – even pan and zoom! Compared to the other mostly static websites the user visits, this sorta-native-but-not-quite Maps experience is down-right-to-die-for! It’s amazing!

Now as a thought experiment, take that same web Maps app, wrap it in a native Objective-C wrapper, and put it on the App Store. Suddenly the experience is quite different. Compared to the native app, why on hell’s earth would I ever download this? It’s slower than its native counterpart, choppier, no animated transitions, no address book integration, etc. It feels downright amateur next to the real thing. The app hasn’t changed, the user’s expectations of the app have changed – and that changes everything!

When a user downloads – better yet, purchases – a native application, they are expecting a native experience. The user experience of this hybrid app is far less than the web app alone, and it’s all because of user expectations. Users are no longer subconsciously comparing your app to webpages in Mobile Safari, they’re comparing it to Tweetie, Flipboard, or Angry Birds. The stakes have been raised, the expectations have been raised, and the baseline user experience needs to be better.

This isn’t a dig at web or even hybrid apps, far from it, it’s an observation that to provide the best possible user experience, one of the most important decisions to make is where and how to set that baseline user expectation. This user expectation will play a large part in defining the quality of an app’s user experience.

This is true not just of web vs native vs hybrid development, but even the app’s icon and branding quality, website and marketing material, support, email response and cordiality, everything that the user sees before the app is even launched. The user experience of an app – good or bad – can be almost entirely decided before an app’s development has even started.

wpSearchMu updated to work with WordPress 3.0

If you’re a WordPress user, then you know that Automatic is working on merging WordPress with WordPress MU, and they’ve recently released a beta for the new 3.0 version.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated wpSearchMu, so this was a perfect time to make sure everything’s still working with this latest release. Visit the wpSearchMu page to download the latest version!

New this version:

  • Support for WP 3.0
  • Better support for post tags
  • Support for searching categories
  • Support for searching author names

It’s already April again

This has been an incredible, horrible, exciting, and difficult weekend for me. Tomorrow marks 1 year since the worst day in my life. Moments from the past year, both good and bad, have flashed to mind this week – today and tomorrow especially. It’s at one time completely awful to relive these memories, but it’s equally amazing to be with Christi on the other side of them. I have been incredibly blessed this past year.

Christi, so far, is still doing fantastic. Average survival for someone with her cancer is only 17 months; today finishes off month 12. The side effects from treatment have remained manageable, and you’d never even know she had cancer if you met her. Even her hair – while short – has grown back.

She is the strongest person that I know. Since day 1 she has remained her up-beat and positive self, focused on getting well, focused on raising our beautiful 3 year old daughter Cailyn, and focused on Jesus and the blessings He’s given this family. I don’t deserve her, she has been absolutely amazing.

It’s both a wonderful and horrible thing to face death closely – to focus you so specifically on how you live you life. It’s horrible to be reminded – taunted – of our inevitable end, and it’s wonderful that it has focused our family on each other, on our friends, and on our faith in Jesus. Easter Sunday reminds me of second chances. Whenever God does take Christi home, I’ll know that’s where she’ll be. home. but until then the greatest gift God has given me will be treasured.

Our most important decision this past year has been to continue to live our lives despite the cancer. Don’t let it rule us. Don’t let it distract us from our baby girl. Don’t let it distract us from each other.

During this past Christmas vacation we made a promise to each other. Every weekend we had together we would spend time together as a family. 2 Saturday’s a month we’d take Cailyn somewhere and have a 100% family day – the zoo, children’s museam, art store, somewhere all day. 1 Saturday a month we’d hire a nanny for the kid, and Christi and I would have a lunch+movie+dinner date. The last Saturday of the month Christi’s usually on chemo, so we’ll stay in and enjoy a family dinner together.

If life is cruel enough to give Christi and I only the average 17 months together, then 5 months from now we want to look back with zero regrets. And if we’re blessed enough to live a lifetime together, then I look forward to filling it with uncountable family weekends together, symptoms and side effects be damned!

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