Get Satisfaction is a company about people and relationships, embodied by conversations within and between communities. We employ a user-centered approach in our design efforts, talking to people who play various roles in their Get Satisfaction communities to understand how they think about the community itself and the facilities they use to perform their work. This process is informed by the trends toward mobile computing as a principal way in which people access the Web.
Mobile technology enables constant connection, constant interaction, and a blurred boundary between work time and personal time. We recognize that consumers may interact with a community while midstream through a product purchasing flow, and community managers may respond to consumer questions at all times of the day and night—in and out of the office. We constantly keep this reality in mind as we design our products.
Beyond consistency in our codebase, we also want to achieve consistency in the user experience of the applications we build. We recognize that navigation and presentation constructs will necessarily vary, depending on the screen real estate and input modalities available, but we believe it is worth the investment to establish a framework that effectively spans the gamut.
While we doubt there will be “one UI metaphor to rule them all,” we want to avoid the divergence enabled by multiple implementations whenever possible. After all, consistent with what we observe about mobile usage, we expect individual users to interact with community content through a variety of means, and they expect the basic behavior of those touch points to be uniform.
We have taken a mobile-first approach to the design of our web applications. This means we design the application—from overall navigation, to wireframes and screen layouts, to detailed style and visual design—considering mobile use cases before considering use cases that might be exclusive to the desktop. And by mobile, which is really too broad a term in this context, I mean smartphones and tablets—both of which are mobile, but each have different amounts of screen real estate and therefore suggest different presentation and interaction facilities.
For example, we are building a new community web application (the application consumers will use to search for, comment on, and post topics). Rather than start by designing the interface for users on a desktop or laptop, we are designing it for smartphone users. Leveraging responsive design, we mindfully consider how the app will change as the screen size gets bigger.
We (along with a growing number of mobile-first design proponents) believe that designing for the most constrained environment first and then growing out yields a much more thoughtful, clean, usable system than going in the other direction. Focusing initially on mobile use cases also allows us to narrow the number of features we introduce in the first release of the product. Feedback from that first release, along with additional capabilities appropriate for larger screen sizes, informs the development of additional functionality, consistent with our agile approach. Establishing a visual and functional framework for our new web applications that works in a mobile context will yield a consistent and flexible application for tablets and desktops as well.
*This post is the third in a Mobile Manifest series. Read the previous post, The Impact of Mobile on our Technology, then check back in next Thursday to see the fourth post.