We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. We depend more on experience than brand, and nothing puts us off quite like an unresponsive design. Today there is no specific screen size - from a smartwatch with a micro screen to the widest TV-screens there is a multitude of sizes in between. Visual content should be developed in such a way that it is truly viewable and usable across screens.
It’s no secret that handheld devices are ruling the roost and dominating the technology market. With so many options available, shifting between screens is quite an obvious thing to do. Because of this, users also expect a seamless experience which doesn't get compromised by the screen size.
However, designing to maintain the same user experience across all device isn’t an easy feat to achieve. Many factors need to be considered while planning a great user experience and many things can go drastically wrong during the design phase. Designing for multiple devices requires intelligence and logic, and it involves much more than simply resizing content to display on different screens.
To delight the users, it’s necessary to develop an effective strategy that targets a diverse range of devices and screen sizes. Let’s see how to swim ashore and create successful designs that are perfect for every device.
Identify and understand USERS
The first step of UX is to identify the primary and secondary target audience along with their demographics and psychographics. It’s absolutely imperative that we understand how familiar the users are with different devices and their ease of use on those.
Let’s take E-commerce shopping app as an example. Once we have identified the different personas and mapped their frequently used technology, we can decide on what platforms we can and should build the product. A shopping app would provide the best experience on web, mobile, and tablet. However, it won't work well on devices with smaller screens like an iWatch.
Map the CORE FEATURES and TASKS of the product; Define Device groups
Now that the target audience and platforms are defined, identifying the core features of the product and defining the ideal mode of representation on each device type is the next step. Identifying different scenarios in which a product will be used across various device groups is extremely crucial, and then an experience should be designed which is suitable for each of those scenarios. Not all features make sense on all devices. While there are thousands of device models, we can group the devices with similar screen widths and arrive at a suitable group. However, this group will change from project to project based on the user research.
For example, providing a shopping feature on an iWatch may not make much sense, but subsets of the overall user flow can be translated on the watch, like status, tracking once the order is placed and receiving notifications for the same.
Design MOBILE FIRST
It’s best to start your designing process from the mobile version of the website before scaling up to other screen formats like tablets, laptop or desktop screens, as it has the most limitations and helps to narrow down on what's most crucial for the user.
Over time, by gaining hands-on experience, I have experienced that when you have lot of screen space to play around, it is relatively far easy to add features, but once that privilege is taken away, you are forced to stop and decide what matters most, giving you the core that is absolutely critical and later you are more enabled in applying the same process of judiciousness to the other versions of technology.
Design GUIDELINES and STYLE GUIDES
After defining user groups and device groups, it's important to define a reference device. This device will be used as default during the designing phase and will aid in creating a reference design. This can also be achieved by creating consistent style guides keeping all the platforms in mind.
The style guide essentially contains all the defined set of principles, guidelines, usage of colors and fonts with other visual patterns. Given the versatility of each device, it is also possible that there may be more than one reference device. It is important that the product looks coherent and a part of the same family across devices. One easy way to achieve this is by constantly testing the designs on actual devices. Testing with actual users will help uncover various UX and usability issues.
Consistent & seamless experience across devices
Consistent experience is the key to an amazing user experience and one of the greatest challenge of a UX designer while designing for responsive designs. Consistent experience simply means, that regardless of the device its experience is similar across all screen sizes. Rather than tailoring designs suited for each of an ever-increasing number of screens and devices, it's always best if you can treat them as facets of the same experience which only builds user confidence. Also, it’s a lot easier for users to interact and engage as they know exactly what to expect if they have been on the app before.
People constantly shift back and forth between devices to get things done on an everyday basis, and while they move, they expect their products and services to shift with them. This means users do not have to think about the device they are using, changes in the environment, or changes in context; Basically, they rely on a product that is greater on functionality and ease of use that is independent of the device.
Although universal design is quite challenging even for seasoned designers, the best thing you can do is to keep updated with the latest UI/UX best practices (which you can gain from reading many design blogs), design around your content, keep your images flexible, always consider your navigation, and remember, a great seamless user experience holds the key for an app to be successful in the market!