Hackernoon logoUnlocking the secrets of mobile apps by@danielwhyte

Unlocking the secrets of mobile apps

Daniel Whyte Hacker Noon profile picture

Daniel Whyte

Senior Mobile User Experience Designer

The smartphone is an incredibly personal tool. It holds a wealth of information, pictures of your family, the places you’ve been, it knows your location at any given time, holds music you love and is always close by.

More and more apps are expected to hold meaningful connections. Every aspect should be about you and the connections you have with the world. Steve perfectly sums up just how profoundly personal apps have become:

“If you’ve ever picked up someone else's phone, looked at their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you’ll instantly feel out of place.” 
Steven Caddy Senior Manager, Mobile Apps realestate.com.au

It’s not that the content is bad, the information is just not relevant to you. We live in the age of information, and if you want to be successful it’s not about providing as much information as possible, but providing as little information as possible that carries the most meaning.

It sounds so simple, but getting there is difficult and involves having a complex and meaningful relationship wth your audience.

Defining relevancy

What’s going on, where you are & what you’ve done in the past shape what is the most important to you.

That’s time, location & me.

Time + Location + Me = Relevancy

I’d like to first acknowledge that the user has to be interested in what your app hopes to solve, otherwise it can never be relevant.

The world is a wonderful place. Over the day, billions of people and machines change the world around us, it’s easy to get lost in information, irrelevance. When you look at something like Apple Maps you don’t think about the countless pieces of information contained globally, you just think about what you’re looking at, based on the outcome you need.

Apple Maps is a great example

Mapping apps take incredibly complex information (i.e pretty much everything on earth) and reduces it down to simple language understood at a glance.

Apple Maps

Time: I know it’s only a 5 minute walk.

Location: I can see both where I am , and where I want to be.

Me: Since i’ve tapped on the train station, that’s what I see. There are a myriad of locations on the screen, each one holding it’s own treasure, but it’s out of the way until I really need it.

Starting a search

Time: Pana Chocolate is closed now

Location: As I type, the results displayed will be relevant to my location. 
The Cremorne in Melbourne is most likely more relevant to me than the one in New South Wales.

Me: Even when I go to look for another location, it remembers what i’ve done, what i’ve typed in before, taped on, or even told it to remember. 
Note how the persisting actions like my address, or the things that I've Favorited are at the top.

The sweet spot

Right now, nearby, uniquely for me.

When I tap this “Home from Current Location” cell, it will tell me how to get home, from where I am now and based around the current road conditions, and all I have to do is tap two buttons.

One tap wonder

Mapping is a full screen experience, but when relevancy becomes really important and far less visible is when you’re doing high risk tasks with limited space like sending push notifications or suggesting content.

It could be the deciding factor whether a user comes back to your app or deletes it in frustration.

1. Time

Time changes so many things, your app is no exception.

The first and easiest vector of relevancy, spoken to one another, printed on paper, transitioned to web before next becoming enriched by the mobile space, it can be the current time, or a time in the past of future.

The difference between 9am and 9pm is profound, a cafe transitions to a bar, the people that were awake now sleep. It impacts the type of content that is trending on twitter, or if a chocolate shop is open, or bar closed.

What’s happening now shapes what I can do or know.

2. Location

Probably one of the most amazing things about smartphones

From the physical world, making the digital magic. 
If you know what’s close, you can create a shortcut and we love shortcuts.

You might know where you will be later, or you’ve saved your home or work address, or you might just need to tell a friend where you are, at the very least it’s a pointer to what’s around you.

You get the superpower of speed. By being in close proximity to my Macbook, it lets me share things to the device.

3. Me

People are spending more and more time on their mobile devices every day.

Every download a new beginning, every tap a question and every swipe a story. Patterns exist for both singular users, and multiple alike, and they help you learn about each of them and make their experience magical (or you know, serve them advertising).

4. Time & Location

For sharing, or knowing what’s going on around you.

Using mapping or text to serve relevant information that helps users, where cars are on an uber map, letting you know what the weather is like outside, or how far you have to walk to get to public transport.

5. Time & Me

Keeping records, and ordering chronologically

From twitter feeds to calendars, keeping track of when things happen and how long ago/until

6. Location & Me

So how can I use this in my app?

Learn what’s happening at a location 24 hours a day 7 days a week, if something can or will change in that timeframe, then it’s of use.

For instance if you search for pizza, Google is not going to show you pizza shops in another region, it’s going to show you local ones, and it will prioritise ones that are open now.

Figure out what you’re keeping track of, store things users look for, and pair that data with geo-location or even compare it with other users.

You’re playing for attention, and everyone is busy. Save time, show relevance, it all builds confidence.

Just ask yourself, “Time, location or me?”

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