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When it comes to employee satisfaction with corporate mobile apps »identifying use cases and user personas is key to designing rich, mobile app experiences that keep employees engaged and productive.« sates Scott Snyder, chief strategy officer at Mobiquity. In this blog post I focus on a mobile creative strategy in action approach to achieve greater affinity with consumers and therefore an improved user experience with corporate mobile applications.

Asking the right questions with an overall focus on the »know why« will help you to better understand the jobs your users are trying to get done and how well your product meets their needs.

Mobile devices now reach the farthest corners of the world and have a profound implication for civil society, for education, for information and for companies of course. Mobile applications enable push notifications, inform their users, build loyalty and generate business and help boosting efficiency and productivity. So do business apps. But considering an independent study from October 2013 titled »Employee Mobile App Satisfaction Report« by Mobiquity, nearly 60 percent of employees at mid-to-large businesses ditch corporate mobile apps they should be using for work-related tasks and returning to desktop and laptop computers to complete their work – most likely to their lack of rich design and useful features to improve the overall user experience. Many mobile versions of enterprise software such as ERP or CRM solutions are characterized by old-fashioned and overloaded interfaces, i.e. the avoidance of a mobile CRM application may not advance the interests of your sales reps. These issues must be target both in terms of its operational concept, as well as the visual design, to motivate and engage employees for the use of corporate mobile apps on tablets and smartphones.

Identifying use cases and user personas help us to »know how«, but this (mostly abstract) kind of data from user research, psychographics etc. is a perfectly legitimate way to gather information from the past but may correlate with user needs of today and therefore doesn’t help us to really »know why« people decide to buy-in or reject a mobile solution.

Business-to-Employee applications avoidance is a real thing and employees’ buy-in is required for them to meet their full potential. Asking the right questions with an overall focus on the »know why« will help you to better understand the jobs your users are trying to get done and how well your products meet their needs (thus a better understanding of the market, not your product). But the »why« needs to be supported by the »how« – so where do we go from here?

Concept – Understanding jobs your users are trying to get done: First, get away from a product centric mentality, which may still reside in your conception. Concept development needs to consider user behavior. At Art Noir we focus on asking the right questions with our users’ tasks in mind, keeping distance to the user itself but taking a hard look at why they are behaving in a certain way to get their job done and how they are trying to get their job done. This is not an easy task, but for developing a successful mobile app you should have an idea what kind of user behavior impacts what factors of the mobile app experience.

Consider basic statistical research and analysis work to identify (unmet) needs. The »Employee Mobile App Satisfaction Report« for example can give you a first start to further investigate what factors have led to Business-to-Employee applications avoidance and from here finding themes within a catalog of needs.

But give your users a fair hearing – think about the job from the users perspective. Integrate your users, customers or partners into workshops to bring in a perspective that lives outside of your day-to-day business to increase creativity and to gain fresh ideas. Uncover functional and related jobs your users are trying to get done and what features you should consider to incorporate for your mobile app experience to encourage compliance and to affect user behavior in a positive way.

Start with questions around behaviors. Interview a small selection of your users and focus on answering just basic questions. Define the steps to get the job done and their desired outcomes to measure how well the job gets done. Focus on the obvious – if an idea or feature doesn’t clearly resolve your users’ job, it should be dropped or be re-considered.

If you have no capabilities in doing workshops or interviews (such as we do,from time to time), think intuitively and look at existing behaviors. Mobile app design, and therefore human interaction design relies heavily on established human behaviors. Think about your own behavior while dealing with a task or look at other peoples behavior to build up hypothetical scenarios and see what you can obtain, combine it with your research data or experiment for the best results possible. From here consider setting up personas and scenarios.

Tool – Mobile App UX Checklist: Use this easy developed creative assessment tool to proof new product concepts that were developed in your strategic brainstorming/heuristic sessions and for a systematic retrieval of possible improvements of your app concept model. Thus, newly devised solutions can be compared with reference apps and mobile products on the basis of a set of questions.

Visual ideas should further be incorporated in an early stage of conception and technical modeling to give conceptual thinking direction and inspiration.

Creation – Visualization is more than just design. Having a great concept model with your users jobs and life in mind doesn’t mean a great mobile app design outcome. Good mobile app design is a hard job and based on a solid concept of visualization. Visualization is more than just a few UI sketches that lie on top of each other. Visualization is developing appropriately forms and their optimization through an appropriate visual design, underlining an understanding of the flow of information and the user flow. Visual ideas should further be incorporated in an early stage of conception and technical modeling to give conceptual thinking direction and inspiration. This is an iterative process, fundamentally seen as a dialog among designers, developers and your stakeholders to ensure a proper exchange of ideas resulting in increased creativity (thus decreasing lack of performance and ideas).

Simplify the useful and focus on designing the obvious, meaning: build only what is necessary for your users to get the job done, get them up to speed quickly, prevent and handle errors, and design for the activity. Consider well-established frameworks, native interaction patterns, integrate content media types and work pixel-perfect while designing for the target operating system. Develop style guides to ensure overall consistency and professionalism, as well as saving time and costs.

Tool – Usability Heuristics and progressive idea generation: A heuristic method is a suitable tool for the systematic change/redesign of an app. It refers on spur questions on aspects such as omission, analogies, combinations, substituting, changing or rearranging purpose. So the problem can be considered the way in which a mobile CRM application has to be improved in terms of its usability concept. Also consider progressive abstraction: By repeatedly questioning the problem, different aspects of the problem are to be questioned and searched on a more basic and solutions oriented level.

Build & Integrate – Produce significant value through holistic and compatible solutions: Visual design and development play an equally important role. Developing your visual design brings your concept to life. Therefore, consider to get your developers involved early and often, particularly in the conception process. Also, your technology approach should make it easy to get your users engaged quickly and easily with your corporate mobile application. Therefore, i.e. make your mobile CRM application available offline when the job demands access to important business data at any time, focus on performance and incorporate methods like bluecasting, QR codes or push services for transferring content and to exchange information where needed. Consider the most compatible technological approach for your mobile experience, where relationships across your products and services when combined could create a new proposition for your users and fulfill the entire range of your users needs.

Tool – Quality assurance testing with the job to be done in mind: In order to deliver high quality products consider quality assurance testing both for meeting your users needs or desires as well as functional requirements. Generate a comprehensive bug list, check functionality requirements against different browsers, platforms, operating systems and user acceptance to verify customer requirements – your mobile app can meet every requirement and still not get the job of your users done. Rely on test platforms for beta testing, crash reporting and analytics. Focus on considering the full customer experience through UX assessments – experiment and iterate for the best results possible through easily implemented feedback mechanisms in every stage of your creative strategy.

Key takeaways

  1. Your user is the driving force behind every business.
  2. Uncover functional/related jobs your users are trying to get done.
  3. Interviews & workshops over intuition over statistical analysis.
  4. Know why first, know how second.
  5. Design the obvious – simplify the useful.
  6. Produce significant value through holistic and compatible solutions.
  7. Use frameworks to increase creativity, productivity and quality.
  8. Measure how well the job gets done.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that was previously published on Thinking Mobile Blog.

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