The ‘cross platform’ definition is no longer definite
In 2013, the definition of the word ‘literally’ was updated in UK dictionaries, much to the despair of those who took the English language oh-so seriously.
As well as its literal meaning, it was also perfectly acceptable for it to be used as a high grade of emphasis while meaning ‘figuratively’, much as it has throughout various stages in history. However, with its current popularity as a slang tool, made popular in current language conventions, literally’s latest not-so-literal definition is now, at least, official.
What’s all that got to do with UX behaviour? Well, just as recently, the term ‘cross platform’ has undergone a similar definition transformation.
What do we mean by ‘cross platform’?
The dictionary definition reads as follows:
“Able to be used with different types of computer systems.”
However, as technology keeps firing forward at an incredible rate, the term ‘platform’ has also transformed within popular language conventions.
In the good old days, the popular accepted computer platforms were Windows, OS, Linux, and a few lesser-known also-rans.
Now, with so much of our software expected to run not only on the popular desktop platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux, and Chrome OS, they’ll also have to run on a variety of mobile phones, tablets, smart TVs, games machines, virtual assistants, smartwatches, and soon, who knows, with the Internet of Things growing by the day, perhaps your fridge and washing machine too.
Considering cross-platform mobile development, the biggest current cultural debate over the past decade has been, “Apple or Android?” It’s practically turned into the way we define ourselves into tech communities, much as the Mac or PC ‘Get a Mac’ TV ads did in the mid/late 2000s.
Cross-platform now covers everything from your phone to your TV and everything in between, and what they run on. If it’s part of your buyer’s journey—which is also changing as new habits develop—designers and developers need to consider how best to attack the latest trends and behaviours.
The multi-platform buying journey
Digging into digital history once again, the way we once bought products or services online could be simplified to seeing an advert on TV or in our favourite publication and jumping onto the house desktop computer to find the product and make our purchase.
That very simplified version of things has developed considerably. Now, we see ads everywhere. Of course, our buying journey could still start on TV, but now, via social media, email, review sites, mid-copy, or within placement ads on websites tracking our activity. We’ve even arrived at the point where suspiciously, we see ads for the things we were only just chatting to our friends about.
Do we jump to our desktop to make that purchase? Not anymore. We can buy direct from our social media accounts, apps, vendors, marketplaces or, as was once the standard, even the product website.
But that’s not where it ends. Instead, today’s tech-friendly buyers could be scrolling social media on their phones while their smart TV throws ads and info at them, all the time checking the company website on their laptop and reviews on their tablet.
How is the vendor supposed to track all of that information to determine what the current buyer journey looks like?
Data is vital in today’s marketing, especially when deciding which our preferred platforms should be and tweaking the UX for their best delivery and ROI.
What is cross-platform UX behaviour?
Buying is an emotional process. It’s fraught with anticipation, frustration, haste, excitement, and, finally, jubilation. The UX designer must consider these emotions because delivering the perfect journey through the latest complicated sales funnels demands success at every touchpoint.
Have you ever been frustrated at a poorly performing or badly laid out cart or checkout system? Or you couldn’t locate the information you needed? Of course, you jumped ship right away, didn’t you? And why wouldn’t you? There are many more vendors with better processes who’ll make the operation far simpler and easier on our hasty, ultra-demanding users.
Cross-platform UX and buying behaviour relates to how those users could seamlessly continue their journey without confusion or angst, all the way to the finish line. Can they start the process on their iPad and finish it on their Chromebook, taking steps on their Android mobile along the way? And if so, will every step look and feel part of the same process?
Why is UX so important in cross-platform app and website development?
Quite simply, because the days of desktop vs mobile design have long since left the building.
Surely, delivering apps on all platforms, a website that’s mobile-friendly for all devices, and works within each social media system is a big ask. So should you have to deliver at every opportunity?
There’s a phrase, “Selling to everybody means selling to nobody”, which could well be a golden guideline for marketers; casting too wide a net is a classic gamble that rarely pays off. That’s why we have data and analytics. We no longer have to gamble with fate; now, we can precisely determine what our customers look like, how they behave, where and when they shop, and how we can focus on them to drive the results we want.
UX designers and product managers decide their ideal ‘strategy’ using that data and build upon it through rigorous research, development, and testing.
Your strategy is the route map to your goal, but be prepared to change it along the way. Listening to your data has never been so important.
Gathering data and testing for cross-platform/multi-platform development
Research and data is always a designer’s best tool for cross-platform app development and website design. Knowing what your users want and giving it to them is the head start you need.
This is the point where you decide the best data-gathering tools for you and your project. Without a doubt, you need a tool that delivers fully cross-platform analytics under current practices and conventions. However, all the gaps only add to the guesswork without a complete picture of such complex user journeys.
Using an analytics provider that tracks the product user across platforms and follows them through their complete journey is the only way to create the full picture of their cross-platform behaviour, allowing the developer and UX designer to create a seamless experience.
Sure, without it, you can still see conversions and bounces, but can you add context to the decisions you’ll make because of it? Without seeing where the user journey failed, it’s far harder to know what to fix or where precisely the problem could lie.
Cross-platform data collection allows your teams to understand the key areas to focus on, saving time and resources from plugging holes that don’t exist.
Designing for multiple and cross-platform behaviours
We’re not going to tell anyone how to design their digital products, despite working with many cross-platform mobile app development services. However, given what we’ve learned, there are a few areas we should all consider essential when it comes to cross-platform user experience.
Consistency, continuity, context, and adaptability
Consistency – Your user shouldn’t wonder if they’ve just loaded up the wrong website when they jump from Apple to Android or from their social media account to the product’s website. Brand identity, visual representation, and tone should all connect seamlessly. That way, the user can continue their journey and experience without giving it a second thought.
Continuity – Your user will love you if they can add an item to their basket on one device and pick it up on another. Who wants to start again from scratch? And what about the checkout process? Nobody wants to have to fill that out twice. Imagine having to find the right page of the book you’re reading when switching from your Kindle device to your iPhone Kindle app. UX matters when moving from one device to another, demanding seamless continuity.
Context – Understanding the key motivations to use each device at different stages helps put your delivery into some kind of UX context. For example, there are times when only a large screen will do, yet if your customers predominantly make their purchases while at work, in a café or waiting in line, then it’s going to be mobile all the way.
Adaptability – If you find that a specific platform, device or system user leans a particular way, using a function overlooked by other methods, are you the type of developer who can take that information and adapt it to your process? Again, if you’ve spotted that it’s responsible for a boost in numbers, it makes sense to add positive actions into your touchpoints.
UX behaviour is essential in achieving cross-platform goals
No matter how good your product or how clever your apps, websites, and services are, if they’re not in tune with each other, all performing as a tight-knit family, all driving your users to the finish line, there’s every chance you could lose them along the way. Dropping sales is not an option, so catching them before they fall is imperative.
Considering all the best UX practices across devices and operating systems goes a long way to fulfilling your goals and reaching your targets. As buyer journeys become more complex, it’s time for UX designers and developers to keep up with trends by tracking users over their devices and making each jump almost invisible.
So, as we push UX and the tools that monitor how users mix and match between Apple and Google, cross-platform mobile app to desktop website journeys will be a crucial feature of our newest data sets. It’s our job to use everything we’ve got to hand to build the ultimate, seamless practices.