Follow the framework of the 4 Cs
He swears by the 3 C’s framework from the book “Designing Multi-Device Experiences” by user experience designer Michal Levin, and suggests throwing in an extra C for good measure to craft exceptional experiences:
Design consistency is not only important for brand recognition, but also for the user experience. “Consider your strategy for answering the question ‘How do I use this?’” Patrick says. “When in doubt, follow the expected design patterns for a device rather than breaking away from people’s existing learned behaviors.”
In order for a well-designed experience to be seamless, we must plan for and design the entire customer journey. “Creating a continuous path for everyone interacting with your brand is key,” Patrick says.
Today’s devices not only help us complete tasks on their own, they must also work with other devices to get things done. “From large TVs to screen-free fitness trackers, we use our devices in tandem with others,” Patrick says. “We as designers must consider this ecosystem rather than focusing on single devices.”
When our screens are becoming smaller and larger at the same time, the context of how and when someone experiences something becomes even more important. Patrick points out that it’s our job as designers in this multi-device ecosystem to deliver the right thing at the right time, to the best available device.
Create consistent user experiences with design systems
The easiest way to address usability on a variety of devices is to focus on creating consistent user experiences, says Sarah Federman, design engineer at Adobe.
“We need to create and maintain users’ expectations on how to interact with our products,” she says. “A great tool to do this with is a design system. A design system breaks down the UI into reusable parts and creates a system of interactions that users can recognize across devices. An experience like a share flow should be cohesive across devices, but also across applications in an ecosystem. With a design system we can really focus on the ecosystem, which includes the experiences of all the products across the brand and all of the devices from which they are accessed.”
Devices are portals, not products
A change in perspective is another way to help us ensure consistency. “Think of your company as an environment filled with valuable objects, as opposed to a collection of feature-laden tools,” says Sophia Prater, founder and lead UXer at Rewired.
“Your websites, apps, and Alexa skills are not products — they are portals to access your content. Before optimizing the interaction design for each portal, UX designers can start by modeling the objects within the app’s environment. Regardless of the point of access, the objects inside should be valuable, recognizable, and they should match the user’s mental model.”
By way of an example, Sophia points to Delta Air Lines — an environment filled with flights, trips, airports, gates, and seats. “These objects have relationships,” she explains. “A trip is made up of flights, a flight leaves from an airport at a gate. Users want to manipulate Delta’s objects by booking a flight or perhaps upgrading a seat. Barring rare exceptions, these truths don’t change based on the portal of choice.”
So, to create an effective UX strategy, Sophia recommends defining the objects that make up your content, as well as the connections between the objects. “Start with a prioritized list of what users want to do to these objects, and how effectively users currently can take those actions on each device,” she says. “This ‘mapping’ is where I start when teaching object-oriented UX, as I have with dozens of organizations. The effect is when a customer visits your content through a chatbot, a kiosk, and a smart watch — all in the span of a week — your world has a fighting chance to feel familiar, recognizable, and even seamless.”