| by Flow

Top tips on taking your brand mobile

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After 15 to 20 years of squeezing, caressing and growing brands into the digital world, the latest excitement is all about bringing mobile into the customers’ experience of a brand.

Two years ago, simply having an app or mobile website was sufficient to satisfy the corporate need for mobile presence. This led to a lot of poor mobile experiences. Some were badly designed for a mobile device, illustrating a lack of understanding of the technology. Others were inappropriate for the context of use, illustrating a lack of understanding of the end users. And some were inconsistent with the brand guidelines, often as a consequence of not being taken seriously internally.

Mobile is an emotionally-charged channel and the mobile experience of interacting with brands has a significant effect on overall brand perceptions and loyalty. In a recent study into mobile behaviour, carried out by our sister agency Foolproof, almost 50% of respondents said they had stopped dealing with a brand completely because of a poor mobile product or service.

But on the flip side, the opportunities in mobile are huge. The same study showed that mobile devices have given us a new sense of freedom and control with 57% feeling more in control of their life. People develop emotional attachments to their device and refer to it as being “alive” and an “extension of their own body and personality”. Most keep their devices within easy reach at all times and are engaging with brands in new ways, new times and in new places. This groundswell is driving massive increases in mobile usage, and expectations that it will overtake desktop by 2015.

Mobile is a channel with great potential and one that warrants a strategic approach rather than trial and error. Therefore, brands must take time to think a little harder: to develop multichannel user experience strategies, playing to the strengths, and recognising the limitations of each channel. This means focusing mobile on where it can add real value to the customer’s relationship with the brand.

At the heart of this is the need for a rich understanding of the ever-changing user attitudes – something which requires that design teams follow a user-centred approach – that means observing and learning from behaviour, not just asking people what they want.

Develop your mobile strategy
Don’t assume your mobile presence is the same the web presence, simply reformatted for a different device. This responsive approach to design, which will grow further with the launch of Windows 8, is sometimes appropriate, but seldom the whole answer.

Mobile devices tend to be used on the move or whilst multi-tasking. Your mobile strategy needs to acknowledge this, and play to it through encouraging location specific features e.g. relating to places, objects or people they are near. And by encouraging real-time or delayed integration with other activities e.g. social networking, enhanced TV, camera or sound recording.

As part of a mobile study, Foolproof developed design principles, based on research, which should inspire effective mobile strategies (see call out).

Develop mobile specific brand guidelines
Brand guidelines for mobile should include standard, and non-standard, interactions and transitions, as well as the more traditional brand guideline content of visual styles, layouts and tone adjusted for mobile devices.

This requires knowledge of devices (smart phones and tablets) and Operating System UIs (iOS, Android and Windows), a thorough understanding of business goals and user goals, and skills in interaction design, visual design and copywriting. Importantly this must be a constantly evolving document to allow for changing technology and evolving user attitudes.

Design specific mobile products and services
With a clear strategy and strong, up-to-date mobile guidelines you are in a good position to design mobile experiences which deliver to both the business needs and the user needs.

However, just because you have a guidelines document doesn’t mean that every element needs to conform. If there’s a good contextual reason to break the rules, then do so e.g. developing non-tactile interaction in messy contexts such as cooking, rapid, simple, non-tactile interaction and large visuals which work at a glance in situations where the user is occupied, e.g. driving.

Keep improving and evolving
The world of mobile is still new and developing fast. Brands must continually listen to users and observe their behaviour to grow their mobile presence and stay ahead of competitors. If you don’t – your competitors will.

Your brand in my pocket
Your mobile sites and apps give me complete confidence and build on everything I value about your brand.

My context is king
You understand what I want to do on my phone, where I am and what else I might be doing.

Always keep me connected
Your sites and apps keep me plugged in no matter where I am. You make the experience great, even when my signal isn’t.

Delightful to touch and use
It is a pleasure to use your mobile sites and apps. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, it’s effortless.

Inspire me to do things differently
Your sites and apps unlock new ways of working, playing and living.

We grow and learn together
Your sites and apps are constantly evolving and seem to get better and better.

View the key findings from Foolproof’s mobile study here: http://www.foolproof.co.uk/insight/going-mobile/key-findings/

More about designing for mobile:

Meriel Lenfestey

Tel: 020 7539 3840
Email: hello@flow-interactive.com
Web: www. flow-interactive.com
Twitter: @FlowInteractive