Mobile

Redefining friction in a mobile-first world

Image Credit: kevy

This sponsored post is produced by Jim Patterson, co-founder & CEO, Cotap.

“Faster and easier” has long been the new-and-improved mantra of technology marketing. When reducing friction for users meant switching from a desktop computer to a laptop, the validity of that phrase wasn’t just obvious; it was inarguable. But what about now, when reducing friction means going from two taps in an app to just one? Yo and TapTalk are two recent examples of how reducing the number of taps can be powerful yet panned.

There’s no question that cloud and mobile technologies have infiltrated and expedited nearly every aspect of our personal lives. We pay bills and shop online, stream movies and music from the cloud, order takeout, taxis and get our laundry done through apps. Many of the barriers to getting work done have also eroded. Massive amounts of data can easily be stored, computed and analyzed. Enterprise teams collaborate in the cloud on documents, in enterprise social networks and project management apps. Our smartphones give us access to some core tools for work while on-the-go.

Because of this, it’s getting tough to make the argument that work can still get faster and easier, and that there’s still room for workers to be even more productive. Especially when it comes to marketing new, mobile-first communication and collaboration tools, the idea of friction is increasingly nuanced.

But the way we work can still get faster and easier. Increasing productivity has the potential to give back time and flexibility to employees in a way that makes their lives at work and outside of work more fulfilling. But to effectively innovate, market, and sell new services, we have to do an impeccable job of showing users the value of saving what used to be hours, and is now mere seconds.

Giving meaning to ‘mobile-first’ & ‘user-centric’

One key to making this happen is giving clarity and meaning to the terms that will define this generation of innovation. Mobile-first. User centric. Synchronicity. As the next generation of enterprise productivity and communication apps begin to resonate with users, these concepts run the risk of becoming meaningless buzzwords. Remember cloud-first, big data, real-time, Web 2.0, etc.? Those terms became diluted when the intention behind their definitions were complicated by the reality of products that latched on to them.

The definition of mobile-first that our team lives by is keeping the user’s needs, intention, and experience on a smartphone at the heart of every design, development, and product decision we make. Unfortunately, legacy enterprise companies who focus on hardware, and even cloud-based software, will also make this claim. They’ll say mobile-first, when they simply mean mobile. In order to maintain the integrity of these terms, we have to be vigilant in explaining how a truly mobile-first experience impacts the user.

One example is how often users are forced to default back to a desktop experience in order to finish a task they start on mobile. Another example is poor synchronicity that users experience with many enterprise apps that they also use on the desktop. You shouldn’t have to clear notifications twice. A truly mobile-first product is something people can use standing up, with just one hand, to fully complete a task. These may sound insignificant to the average person who simply needs to finish a project, but given the fast-pace of business today, seconds matter.

How mobile-first innovators reduce friction

For users to get all parts of a project or task done on their smartphones, innovation has to remain centered around the highest-friction areas of mobile engagement. A few that come to mind:

Keyboards

New innovations around the keyboard offer a lot of promise for satisfying our competing needs for speed and comprehensive communication. Consider the built-in “thumbs up” in Cotap, the two-tap location-share in WhatsApp, and the two-tap sticker-sharing functionality in Facebook Messenger. These iterations all offer near-instant ways to share meaning without the friction of typing actual words.

Authentication

Aside from improving the security of applications, innovating better authentication mechanisms for users also reduces friction. In a mobile-first product, users rarely need to log in to an app after their first time, so asking them to create and remember a password is unnecessary. Instead, we can use systems that mirror the experience a user has when they simply forget their password, such as sending a link to their email.

One-handed workflows

When determining the value of adding a feature to the app, product and engineering teams must be able to see a person using the feature with one hand, even while standing up. We have to think outside of the desktop experience, and imagine our users in line at the coffee shop, on the train, or in an elevator, seamlessly weaving in and out of a project when mobile moments arise.

What ‘faster & easier’ means to the workforce of the future

For a lot of workers today, the value of a mobile-first enterprise app might not be immediately obvious when compared to the mobile companion of a desktop app. That’s because they likely work in what we consider to be purely knowledge worker environments — places where employees sit at a desk all day and get work done on a laptop or desktop computer. However, as these workers become increasingly mobile and experience the need to get work done while in line for coffee, in the elevator or during their morning commutes, the difference between a companion app and a mobile-first app will become obvious and undeniable.

For teams that include a mix of remote workers, field workers, factory workers, or frequent travelers, in industries like hospitality, retail, and manufacturing, the benefits of mobile-first apps are immediately apparent. These are people who are constantly on the move and spend very few hours at a desk. In fact, they may not have had access to company software at all in the past for this reason. Yet with the ability to use their mobile device to share information with coworkers quickly, get answers to questions in seconds not hours and access critical data from any location, these teams will be more productive and efficient — and in the process, actually allow them more time and freedom to enjoy their lives away from work. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for from our technology?

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