In my blog last week about the “Royal Family” of enterprise mobile app imperatives, I pointed out that in my opinion, “context is king.” Let me give you a simple example of where a little context could go a long way.
Recently, I was heading to an appointment and volunteered to look up the directions to make sure the driver was heading the right way. With my trusty iPhone 5, I opened the Maps application and input the address we were heading to, which soon revealed itself on the map. I then had to click on the destination, click on the “directions to here” choice, then choose from a list to select directions from my current location to the destination. What’s missing in this scenario is any concept of the context. I’m moving at high velocity toward the location I just entered, so why so many clicks to get the directions from my current location to be displayed on the screen? Why do I have to be so explicit about what I want when an app could pretty easily discern my intentions and just display the information I wanted?
Maybe I’m nitpicking, but I believe this is an important nit to pick. The fact is, in all application design – and especially with respect to mobile, clicks count. Every additional choice I have to make takes time, and produces friction in the process. That friction builds up, often to the point that the user becomes frustrated, doesn’t receive the desired result, or just bails out of the app altogether.
Why is this even more important to consider in a mobile app scenario? If I’m mobile, there’s a high likelihood that I’m out in the world somewhere, and splitting my attention between the device in my hand and whatever other stimuli may be going on around me – like avoiding walking into objects or other people, for example. I could be in an airport, on a sidewalk, or sitting at a café. Why doesn’t the app take that, and myriad other data points, into account, and provide me with an experience that is appropriate to the context of the interaction?
This is where so-called Big Data comes in. A lot of organizations are very interested in how they can tap into their vast stores of system, user, and sensor data, hoping to glean insights that can lead to greater profitability and productivity. The idea, and the task, is often so vast, I have talked to CIOs that simply don’t know where to start. Well here’s one suggestion: Consider how understanding the context of a particular user – whether internal, or external to your organization – can inform your applications by predicting what that user is seeking to do, and delivering the result in as few clicks and keystrokes as possible. I think you’ll be amazed at how much more productive – and delighted — your users will be.