In the sea of apps, users get choosey with which apps can take up space on their phone. With one uninstall click the user can decide to breakup with the app if they have a bad experience. To keep your app from being all alone, the MobileGov Community of Practice put together six Mobile User Experience Guidelines to help keep mobile users in love. DigitalGov University hosted a webinar in which the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) highlighted two of these guidelines.
Mobile UX Guideline 4
Let the mic drop! Mobile moments are created with the expectation that an app can stun the crowd. Do not let your audience down; they may never come back. Federal Student Aid (FSA), in an effort to provide better customer service, decided to build a mobile-responsive website. Kaegy Pabulos, a Borrower Experience Specialist and project manager for StudentAid.gov, described this as a challenge because of the need to combine over 12 different websites into one access center.
What is mobile-friendly? Mobile-friendly simply means your visitors can use phones and tablets to visit your website and have a user-friendly experience. Many of us get toward the end of mobile site development and really do not know if what we created is “mobile-friendly.” We think we have followed all of the mobile best practices and performed usability testing. However, do we have something concrete to quantitatively certify that we are mobile-friendly?
Yahoo’s mobile analytics service, Flurry, released a new and provocative report about mobile apps versus mobile browser usage, in which they found audiences are spending almost an hour more with their mobile phones than last year. They also discussed the importance of how “content is king” in mobile apps. The top mobile app categories included mobile messaging/social applications, entertainment, and games, which is nothing new; these continue to reign as the most popular among users as repeat research from different sources continues to prove this.
Every second counts, even those precious two or three seconds it takes your website to load. When it comes to mobile, users won’t wait. During a recent DigitalGov University webinar, Jeremy Vanderlan, Technical Deputy for AIDS.gov, explained how even fractions of a second can have a negative impact on a user’s impression of your website. Performance/load time for Web pages has become so important that Google now considers it one of three equal components to good user experience, along with design and functionality, he noted.
With 14 test cycles under our belt, the Federal CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program has heard one recurring theme from our testers—”there’s too much information!” While both desktop monitor and smartphone screen sizes are growing, there is still no comparison. At our desks, many of us are using a 24 inch (or even bigger) monitor. How big is your smart phone? Way smaller than a desktop monitor. The user will have a radically different experience on a desktop, and they are usually expecting a different experience.
In most instances, your hardware and software are developed independently but are expected to function properly together. For example, when a Web application is developed in HTML, it is expected to function properly on an Apple computer using Safari as well as a Windows computer using Internet Explorer. This sounds simple, but there are thousands of combinations of browser types and versions as well as operating systems, and the number of combinations increases exponentially as we add in the multitude of mobile device makes and models.
Government agencies need to make sure their mobile websites and native apps don’t become one of the estimated billions of applications that end up in the app graveyard. The need for digital products to work better is not new in the federal government. Resources like the Digital Playbook and Public Participation Playbook have had impact helping agencies become user-friendly and both of these resources note the importance of developing usable products for mobile users.
The more you test, the more you know. We recently highlighted lessons learned from the CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program, discussed the mobile emulator dilemma that many agencies face, and today we’re back with a few insights on native app testing. The Federal CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program yields a rich set of participant feedback that helps individual app creators improve their product. While the program primarily tests mobile websites created by federal agencies, the team tested early prototypes of the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Normandy App and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s CrowdMag app as a pilot.
Government agencies have created a variety of apps to meet the needs of the public. As you join in on the mobile first trend and begin developing your shiny new mobile application, you will need to test it. There are a basic set of questions that must be answered: Does it function properly? Does it function properly on the different mobile devices your customers are using? Do all developers and testers need a collection of devices to physically test the application with?
Park websites on NPS.gov from A (Acadia) to Z (Zion) are now mobile-friendly. Visitors using phones and tablets to visit national park websites now have a user-friendly experience to enhance their virtual visits. Previously, visitors using mobile devices saw a smaller version of the website scaled to fit the size of their screen. Now, the content will adjust to fit small screens while providing the same functionality available to those visiting the site using a desktop or laptop.
Mobile apps meet real world needs. App development is not a homogenous process, however. Apple and Android devices are overwhelmingly dominant in device ownership and app development. So, we examined the Federal Mobile Apps Directory for iOS and Android offerings. We noticed a predominance of iOS applications: 170 apps were available on iOS, while only 93 were available on Android. So, we wondered: what makes federal app development iOS-centric?
Much is being said and written about the coming Mobilegeddon/Mopocalypse on April 21st—the day Google’s ranking algorithm will begin boosting results for mobile-friendly sites and penalizing mobile-unfriendly sites. While some agency websites are mobile-friendly, a great many are not. We will do well to pay attention—almost 25% of traffic on government websites is coming from mobile devices. And if responding to the UX needs of 25% of site visitors is not enough argument, perhaps the Google algorithm update will convince agencies that it’s time to upgrade.
As the use of smartphones continues to grow, it has become even more important for websites to be mobile-friendly. Google has been aware of this trend for quite some time. In response to this trend, Google made it a lot simpler for users to see mobile-friendly websites within search results by the use of a mobile-friendly tag back in November. In order to assist the anytime, anywhere user, Google will begin ranking mobile-friendly sites higher in search results in April.
Practice makes perfect. But in the mobile world, it’s testing that makes products better. For federal agencies that have developed their own apps or mobile-friendly sites, the CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program offers a simple way to collect feedback on compatibility testing. Since the program’s inception in March 2013, eight federal mobile websites (including responsive design) have been tested by 65 federal employees from 41 agencies. The benefits are twofold: agencies receive actionable feedback about their mobile websites, and testers gain valuable knowledge about mobile websites that they can share with their own agencies.
Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.
In the mobile world, every second matters. Mobile users are a finicky bunch. They want their information anytime, anywhere and quickly. As members of the MobileGov Community of Practice have noted last year, mobile user experience is about emotion. If that emotion is not happy, you will lose the user. For this month’s DigitalGov user experience theme, we decided to talk about how speed can be a key to a user’s happiness.
Thanks to the power of open data and APIs, federal agencies can now register their mobile native apps and websites on the Federal Mobile Products Registry and have them appear on the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory (formerly USA.gov Apps Gallery) almost immediately. When we launched the USA.gov Apps Gallery in 2010 there were less than 15 apps. To register an app, an agency would contact us with app info, download screenshots and create a “page” for that app.
Remember the Golden Age of Web development? A time long ago when there were only five desktop browsers to support, a few different screen sizes and every user connected via broadband? Well, those days are over. With the advent of mobile Web implementations like responsive Web design, there are three times the number of browsers working on many different-sized devices with varying operating systems and connection speeds. Trying to tackle all of these factors quickly becomes a testing nightmare.
Imagine open source code, publicly available to share, that jump starts your agency’s mobile development efforts. Pretty neat idea, huh? Well last year it became a reality with the Mobile Code Catalog. This idea was the brainchild of Mike Pulsifer, who, as the Technical Manager for the Division of Enterprise Communications, Office of Public Affairs, at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), is responsible for developing and publishing the DOL website and mobile applications.
The PTSD Coach mobile app from the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides veterans and users with information about PTSD and professional care, along with self-assessment tools and aid in finding support opportunities. The app has been downloaded over 100,000 times in 74 countries around the world, received numerous accolades and has spawned versions in both Australia and Canada. Designed for users that are both in treatment and not, this application is a poster-child for the benefits of user testing and paper prototyping.
You might recognize them by the user controls, if provided, that allow you to move from one newsy item to the next. They go by various names, including: carousel, slider, slideshow, banner, and gallery. Many government homepages have them. In a recent email exchange on the Web Content Managers listserv, the consensus was carousels met the internal, official need to share information. However, most agreed carousels were a necessary evil, but in general preference, were an annoyance.
When it comes to Web and software design, the pen(cil) is often mightier than the Design Suite. What I mean is: Tech is cool, but don’t fall under its spell. It’s often when you remove the technological layers between you and your thoughts that the best ideas sprout. You’ve heard of great ideas that started on bar napkins, right? One way that low-tech beats high-tech is when it comes to conceptualizing early-stage design ideas.
Apps that are downloaded, used a few times and then never used again, are considered part of the “app graveyard.” In fact, 95% of apps are discarded within a month of download by users, according to Smashing Magazine. By focusing on creating a great user experience, you can make sure your agency apps are used consistently and don’t end up in the app graveyard. Smashing Magazine lists some “Lessons Learned From the App Graveyard” that government agencies should heed.
Ask, and you shall receive. That was the strategy behind the new homepage from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new CDC.gov homepage debuted last month with a responsive design that offers a “one-site-fits-all” experience based on feedback from you, the public. Before setting out on their journey of Web redesign, the CDC team sorted through satisfaction survey and traffic data from more than 10,000 users who came to CDC.
What if a single piece of paper could make your mobile app work 20% better? It’s hard to imagine something as unimpressive as paper influencing our 21st century smartphones, but it’s true. Well before we get into the design and coding phases, we can show customers a mockup of an idea of what our product might look like. It’s called a prototype (or a wireframe)—it’s a model of a design that’s still in development.
Smaller doesn’t mean more popular when it comes to smartphone screen size. According to mobile analyst Canalys, shipments for phones with screens larger than 5″ represented a third of total shipments worldwide in Q1 this year. Devices with a screen size larger than 5″ are more popularly known as “phablets” (not quite tablets, not quite phones). Government agencies have been implementing responsive design so their Web properties adjust to screen size.