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We’ve all heard the term “Consumerization of IT” (or “Bring Your Own Device”). Most of us have seen the disruptive power this concept has within the enterprise, both for good and for bad. But how do you take advantage of this concept with your apps? How do you make sure that your software serves its users effectively across multiple device categories? The answer is through experience. This blog post kicks off a series of posts that discusses a concept I have coined as Consistency of Experience and how by leveraging this concept, your software will make its users amazingly connected, productive and ultimately happier.
The trend of having employees bring their own devices into the workplace is not necessarily a new one, but it is one that has become a fairly new challenge for IT departments to address. With new form factors in play in the workplace (including app-centric smartphones, tablets and slates, personal laptops and even home-based PCs), gone are the days where Line of Business (LOB) software targets a very specific set of form factors. Employees are getting tablets as birthday presents and new, personal smartphones and even new laptops they purchased themselves and expect that they can do their work on them without hassles. They also expect that most, if not all of the apps that they use at work can be accessed on those various different devices.
Connectivity to traditional business apps like email and other messaging software is often the purview of the IT Department. This upcoming series of blog posts doesn’t focus on that component. What it does focus on is the business apps you actually build, either for your fellow employees or for your business-oriented customers. There are many right ways to build your apps that share a consistent experience across various device form factors, but there are also many wrong ways. This series will focus on guiding principles for building great app experiences that span device form factors.
The breakdown of this series will be as follows:
Part 1: Defining Consistency of Experience – This post will focus on defining the concept of Consistency of Experience. By doing this, the rest of this conversation will be anchored by a firm definition of the problem space.
Part 2: Scenario Building and Identifying User Behaviour Patterns – This post will focus on building scenarios for your app in various different form factors. It is meant to provide a guide for setting the stage for building the right type of app for a type of device form factor in a way that caters to the way a user interacts with that device.
Part 3: UI Re-Factoring – The problem space you are creating software to solve may have very specific features that allow users to get to the right answer or input the right information as quickly as possible, but it is a mistake to assume that you should find a way to fit those features into every app that you are building for this solution. Device form factors each have strengths and weaknesses and you should build only to those strengths.
Part 4: Consistent Experience != Consistent UI – When building a software solution that involves multiple device form factors (and platforms), if you copy the user interface design (or even portions of it) for disparate devices you might end up with disaster on your hands. This post will explain why a consistent experience is completely different than a consistent UI and why designing the right UI for each device is an investment in the success of your solution rather than an expensive thought exercise that yields few results.
Part 5: Services and Leveraging the Cloud to Promote a Consistent Experience – So now you have a plan to promote a consistent experience that cater to the behaviours of users on various form factors. Are we done? Not really. Services are the glue that hold every single one of these experiences together. Most apps these days are virtually useless if they don’t connect to some back-end infrastructure. In this post we will talk about cloud-based services and loosely coupled architectures and how to approach a services-based solution so that your app experiences are successful.
Part 6: Leveraging Features of the Platform the App is Targeting – Once you have figured out what device form factors and platforms you wish to support with your solution, you must now figure out how to make your app a productive tool for your users on that platform and form factor. This post will provide ideas as to how to understand the platform you are targeting and why understanding the platform can make your app go from good to indispensible in the eyes of your users.
Part 7: The Feedback Loop and Transforming Users into Stakeholders - Once your multi-screen experience-enabled solution has been published, now you need to invest in your users. Transforming your users into stakeholders not only gives you great ideas as to what features you should add, but also what you need to refine to make the consistent experience across devices work. This also ensures that your users are invested in the success of your solution and makes them feel that they truly own the experience.
So stay tuned to this blog for these 6 posts on Consistent User Experience in a LOB setting. You may want to bookmark or return to this page often as well as I will update the post with links to the various posts as they are published.