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Creating a Total Mobile Experience
11 Aug 2021
When designing and developing an app, we now have to move beyond just creating the in-app experience if we want to stand out. As the number of devices and OS-features increase, the entire mobile ecosystem must be taken into account. This means the experience must work cross-device and take advantage of more “out-of-app” features to connect the platforms and devices.
We’re no strangers to apps. The average person has at least 40 different apps stored on their smartphone with multiple different uses and purposes from games and social media to streaming, dating and shopping. In many cases they make life or business easier, and they often serve an important purpose in our everyday lives. At the core, the apps deliver a product or service to the end user, and once upon a time that was enough for the app to be successful in serving its purpose. However, that’s not the case anymore.
With the increasing amount of apps that we have available to us there are bound to be some apps that serve the same purpose and have the same target audience, and just like with any other market, you have to stand out to stay in the game. Likewise, an increase in mobile devices which interact with smartphones such as AirPods, Smartwatches and Apple CarPlay etc., has prompted a demand for apps that can support these features and even more importantly take advantage of the value they add to the entire user experience, making them a key component in the development of the app. Apple watches are currently worn on 100 million wrist worldwide and 45 million people sport AirPods in their ears, making them not only valuable to take into consideration when developing apps but perhaps even essential.
As technology advances, it’s become increasingly possible to bundle features and devices, extending the functionality of the app to go beyond the app itself and comply with features like Voice, Clips and Notifications and even to devices such as smartwatches, laptops and desktops. This advance of technology and functionality provides a more holistic and user friendly experience, assuming of course the app takes advantage of these opportunities - something that has become increasingly vital as technology advances.
Extending The In-App Experience
To create a total mobile experience it’s necessary to take the entire mobile ecosystem into consideration. This means designing and developing apps at three distinct levels.
The first level is of course building the in-app experience. The next level is to add any experience-enhancing interactions from OS-enabled functionality like e.g. Voice, Notifications, Widgets or Clips. The final level is integrating and reinforcing app usage between the hardware devices, e.g. between smartphones, tablets, laptop or smartwatches.
Brands and app developers that are able to work at all levels to create a seamless experience will find themselves better positioned to differentiate their digital products and in doing so, become more competitive, by bringing transactions closer to the consumer, and minimising friction by limiting the need for downloading or even visiting the app while using some of its functionalities.
At Shape we’ve designed this small prototype that we believe explains the concept of thinking “outside the app” by using Voice when ordering a burger. The user doesn’t even have to open the app itself. It’s encoded so that the user can just order using Siri in iOS/voice commands and then tap directly into the app’s menu and payment features.
Another example of using Voice can be found in Shape’s Fuel, Wash and Park app for the Danish energy cooperative OK. The app users are able to select and open the gas pump just by using voice command.
Use Clips To Provide The Experience – without an app download
Another relatively new and interesting feature in iOS for both iPhone and iPad is App Clips, which could be viewed as the mini version or “appetizer” of an app that can be triggered from a website, a QR code, links, maps etc. (on Google’s Android platform this concept is known as “instant apps”).
(Image credit: Apple)
Clips are a great opportunity to quickly demonstrate the value of your app. To get the full app, you can always provide an option for download at an appropriate time in the Clip – and you can even transfer any information provided by the user to the app if they decide to download it. This is a positive development for businesses, who previously have struggled with getting customers to download the app, since they are now able to provide easy access to parts of the app through Clips.
App Clips are fast and lightweight (up to 10MB). Typically they are used when e.g. ordering take-out from a restaurant, product demonstrations, previewing content from a media outlet or in a check-out flow, where there is an opportunity to cross-sell other goods or services.
Clips are a very efficient way of extending the experience from e.g. a mobile website visit in providing the user with a sense of what your native app has to offer and to demonstrate specific functionalities or display additional content.
Widgets and Mac Catalyst increases your presence
Widgets are another effective means to let users access specific content or functionality from a native app without actually opening it.
A branded widget could be part of the OS real estate on the screen displaying e.g. when a package is expected to be delivered just like a push notification from the app to the home screen – however, widgets can be made in more sizes and designs than just a normal notification. It can contain specific information or deep links that makes it quicker and more convenient for the user to interact.
Finally, there’s also the opportunity to do more direct integrations and app replications between the different hardware devices by using Mac Catalyst. It modifies the navigation from touch to clicks so you’re able to work cross-device. The user might be using an iPhone or iPad where they wish to continue the work on their laptop or the other way around – or they just want to be able to get app notifications directly on their laptop or desktop.
It’s time to rethink your app in the context of the broader mobile ecosystem. Apps, their functionality, data, and content can now be accessed across several devices and platforms. App Clips are a good example of how we can now minimise the user journey from web to app. As Google and Apple’s different devices have reached a higher penetration it’s beneficial to reevaluate your mobile strategy to encompass not just what can be done in-app but certainly also in-OS or “out-of-app”.
There are now rich opportunities to extend the user experience to move beyond just the app itself. The future mobile strategy both could and should support a broader mobile ecosystem by utilising the OS-features and device integration to a greater extent. This approach is a major step forward in creating more useful, attractive and differentiated mobile experiences.