There are a few factors that help you make up your mind about a new restaurant you have just been to and what people say about it and the Internet is one of them. You can easily divide those factors into two groups: one would be what you see and the other - what you experience. An interesting thing to remember is that they are not equally important, as the design, along with the table setting and the way food is served, may mean nothing when compared with what the food tastes like and how lovely the waiters are. It works the same way when it comes to designing web-based apps.
If you still think that designing a website is just... designing a website, I'm here to help you do your homework, as the term designer is no longer enough and now User Interface designer and User Experience designer are two completely different occupations. The first one takes care of what you see and the other - what you experience. As you may realise, they need to cooperate in order to design a perfect website or application, as even the most beautiful app can be a nightmare if there's no UX designer to wake you up.
Why cross-platform design
Nowadays it is no longer possible to predict from what kind of platforms users access your website or app. With a growing number of smartphones, smart TVs and many more smart devices, a need for innovative multi-platform design is essential, especially if you care about how many users access your app – and you obviously do. Because of different sizes of different devices, designing only one solution will not, unfortunately, do the job. Can you imagine accessing a desktop-only app from your mobile or mobile-only website from your smart TV? Neither do I.
Cross-platform design is more challenging, as it is not just making an app accessible, it is all about making it just as useful. There are several factors you need to take care of when designing cross-platform applications, especially if you want UX and UI to cooperate, and these are:
- Understand your user - in order to understand your users and why they access your app, you need to think from their perspective, think what you most definitely thought when starting the business in the first place. That way you will understand what your users actually need and expect, what they feel when they use your app. Unfortunately, relying on your gut instinct is not enough, you need to run some research, a demographic one for example. By analysing the data, you will most definitely be able to put yourself in your users' shoes.
- Think of the size - according to a study run by Google in 2012, the time we actively spend online is determined by the size of a device we use. An average interaction time on desktop and laptop PCs was 43 minutes, but the number drops to 17 minutes on a smartphone. Thus, it is easier to lose customers because the app is not well adjusted to various devices. The size, however, is not everything that matters. To help your users pay attention, redesigning your app, so that the font, the body and all the images correspond to the device, is crucial.
- Set project goals - there is no reason to be ashamed if your main goal is to sell the product and thus make money. In order to do so, however, the product must work. Setting project goals will most definitely improve the process of creating an app itself, but it will also make the app better. Make sure everyone in your team knows who will use the app and what for -- whether it is meant to be used by the general public or the staff exclusively, whether it is supposed to drive sales or provide information, etc.
No matter how good your app is, ignoring the need of cross-platform designing will, sadly, destroy it. The best solution is to check how it works on every device and system there is. Another thing you cannot forget about is the fact that more and more devices are created every single day. Who knows what will be next, a smart fridge perhaps?