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Reflect upon the growth of mobile device use over the last ten years. In 2008, iPhones were merely a year old and releasing their iPhone 3G. Facebook had just experienced it’s initial boost in usership (100 million users). Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest had yet to be conceived.
While cell phones became an instant hit, we’re continuing to see the growth in integration to our everyday lives across many demographics. In 2017, there were an estimated 224.3 million smartphone users of the total 325.7 million U.S. residents (source). From a global perspective, the mobile phone usage is projected to hit 4.68 billion in 2019 of the just under 8 billion people on Earth at that time (source).
All of this continued rapid integration is making cell phone use second nature. Absentmindedly habitually checking notifications and the phantom vibration sensation are both signs of how deeply integrated smartphones are in our everyday lives. A big part of this intensely focused phone use is the quality of phone apps.
So what can be done to continue this trend of frequent phone use and app addiction? What can we do as app designers to continue to create apps that delight our end users? The answer –
Integrate Natural Experience (NX) in your app designs in 2019
Phone use is so integral in our day-to-day lives that the experience of holding a phone and staring at a screen is becoming more and more natural. Mobile technology is also advancing so quickly that mobile phone use is becoming more intuitive and reactive so that the way that mobile phone users interact with their phones is a more realistic experience.
As an app designer or agency looking to establish themselves as an industry leader and innovator, implementing Natural Experience (NX) research and best practices into your designs is the future of app design. Here is what it means to create NX within your app.
Immersive design and use
We’ve all had those times when we’ve blocked out our surroundings to focus on our phones. Despite outside noise and commotion, mobile users can become locked into their devices, completely captivated by the experience. It becomes less spending time on a phone, or checking a notification, playing a game, and more just – life.
Screens and phones can be captivating if you create the right experience. This means taking away roadblocks, limiting extra clutter, utilize full screen, implement augmented reality technology and advance your app capability to incorporate gestures and interactions.
If any element of your design, content and functionality glitches and breaks the fantasy, it pulls users away from the phone and the overall engagement with your app. Don’t allow small (or large) details to make it clear to users that they are using a phone and engaging in a digital/artificial experience.
From a visual standpoint, graphics can help naturalize a phone session. From a use standpoint, the way in which a user interacts and the phone reacts can create a very natural experience or disappointing artificial experience.
What can you do to enable users to interact with your app the way they would a friend? Reading facial expressions, allowing users to draw hearts to like something and giving them the ability to gesture to navigate your app are all ways in which you can maintain the fourth wall. However, you can’t just create an interface that’s dynamic, seamless and intuitive unless you’re going to follow it up with realistic responses from the app.
In order to maintain NX, a user can’t just give and give to an app without receiving engagement. What is your app going to do to create a dialogue, to create a relationship with its users? How is your app going to keep things interesting and enticing?
You can’t just phone it in, and rely on autonomous bots to fill in the blanks. NX requires a major focus on content. Every word matters. Work with a talented copywriter to make each interaction within your app realistic and sensible.
Video and audio can also create a more realistic atmosphere. It’s the simple fact that looking at and/or hearing a person is going to be more engaging than interacting with auto responses.
You may even consider giving your app realistic tendencies, such as shifting colors in response to a touch, facial expression or voice command.
If you want to be innovative, if you want to create a natural experience, you have to humanize your app as much as possible.
AR is the perfect example of NX. A real world experience with a digital enhancement. Engaging in AR enabled apps creates an immersive experience that marries the real world and the digital world. This should be your goal when creating your next big app. Either utilize AR to inspire your app design or learn to implement AR technology to improve your apps NX.
Biometric technology can bridge the connection between the phone and its user. By enabling users to sign in to your app via facial, iris, voice or fingerprint recognition, you make app and device use that much more seamless.
Tour guide experience
Users should feel personally ushered through your app from start to finish. Whether you’re utilizing audio, video, dialogue, comprehensive walk-through images or a combination of the four, users should receive necessary guidance to avoid any sticking points that disrupt the experience. This can also be done through progressive disclosure that doesn’t overwhelm users with too much information at once, but doesn’t leave them hanging to figure out the app by themselves. Make your app as intuitive as possible, but rely on conversational and natural guidance to help educate users on how best to enjoy your app.
When considering the visuals, functionality and overall UX of your app, make sure you’re factoring in Natural Experience in your scope to ensure your project is future-proof.