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Guest Blogger: John Dalton | August 30, 2013

The Magic Behind A Well-Designed Mobile Experience


Recently I witnessed a bit of design magic.

I was reviewing some research with a customer experience colleague who suddenly realized that he'd left some notes on his laptop, which was tethered to his desk. Knowing that he just started using Evernote, I suggested he sign into his account on his iPhone (which never leaves his side) and get his notes there.

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For seasoned Evernote users there's nothing magical about this. But for my coworker, something significant happened. Though young enough to be considered a digital native, he's also worked long enough to associate productivity tools with desktops and laptops, client-side apps like Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office. His work life has been so deeply informed by PC-based tools that even though he knew, rationally, that he didn't have to run back to his laptop to consult his notes, his habits told him otherwise. Only when he logged in via his iPhone and experienced what a cloud based note-taking app could do for him did his ideas about work begin to swerve a little. You could see it in his smile. That's good design - it makes life a little better, opens up possibilities, adds a little gusto.

My colleague Tony Costa has been writing about these "post PC" experiences, and he'll be speaking about this topic at both our Los Angeles and London CX Forums. He describes these emerging interactions as:

• Natural. Familiar design conventions, like buttons and page-based layouts, are giving way to vastly more intuitive interfaces that let customer directly access the content they want.

• Adaptive. Access to services like Evernote via multiple devices and the cloud mean that customers expect content and functionality to be available anytime, anywhere, tailored to the strengths of the device at hand.

• Anticipatory. Successful next-generation experiences understand the customer's context and provide relevant services in that moment.

It won't be easy building these kinds of services; I doubt many firms have the skills. I'm not sure many agencies do. But watching my colleague's work habits evolve with Evernote, I know these types of experiences are setting a new standard for human-computer interactions.

The great Renaissance poet and humanist Cardinal Bembo once dissuaded an aspiring author from reading the epistles of St Paul, because the old man feared that even passing exposure to mediocre biblical Latin would contaminate the young poet's sensibilities. Perhaps ambitious mobile designers should heed similar advice - stay away from desktop interaction models; they will only mar your style.

John Dalton is a Vice President and Research Director at Forrester Research, serving customer experience professionals. He is a leading expert on the intersection of branding, marketing, and experience design, governance, and understanding
customer needs. To learn more about Forrester's Customer Experience practice, visit

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