ConveyUX: Cross Platform Product Design

by Luke Wroblewski March 5, 2013

In her Cross-Platform Product Design talk at Convey UX Carol Taylor shared how her team at Rhapsody designs interfaces for a wide range of devices from smartphones to TVs. Here are my notes from her talk:

  • Cross platform design is the ability to seamlessly move between interfaces and still accomplish tasks, even when the interfaces are presented on devices with dramatically different display and interaction mechanisms.
  • Interfaces need to be consistent enough to allow for this flow between different contexts.
  • Engagement varies per devices: depending on goals, time of day, mood, activity, and context of use.
  • For example, Rhapsody has two main modes: lean forward (exploring new music, organizing collection) & lean back (just listen to music now). They model which activities get done the most on which kind of device. Browsing on tablets was surprisingly higher then predicted when compared to laptops.

Device Differences

  • Mobile devices are the most personal of all computing devices, get used with partial attention, limited input controls, intermittent connections and battery life, etc.
  • Android design standards are variable by release. Unlike Apple, there were no strong guidelines out the gate. They have been evolving over time.
  • There's a lot of variation in devices that run Android. Asset production is challenging. If you are supporting small, older devices, you need to test on these.
  • iPhone, on the other hand, has stronger guidelines and established controls. You only need to account for two screen resolutions and two screen sizes.
  • Tablets are more entertainment-driven so visually rich, tactile, exploratory interactions work best. You need to design for various orientations and consider shared usage. Like phones, Android tablets come in lots of variations.
  • Connected TVs are usually connected to Internet but low powered. You need to optimize for 10 foot viewing and simplistic controls (rocker remote).
  • All TVs have different standards, submission, and approval processes. Certain controls may be required (safety zones).
  • Game consoles, like the X-Box, are another form factor to consider. Voice and motion controls can be used to control the interface. Everything in the interface is horizontal, not vertical.

Cross Platform Strategy

  • Uniform information architecture: consistent naming, grouping of features, and content.
  • Visual consistency: familiar branding, styling, and iconography across all devices. TVs are a bit darker in background to fit in with living room but, otherwise, very consistent.
  • Device-optimized UI: variable input methods, screen sizes, device standards, battery life, connectivity, sound quality
  • Context-specific features: anticipating intent based on use cases in context, frame of reference.

Principles

  • Minimize the Underused/Maximize the Most Common: deprecate functionality that is not core; make it easy to perform the top scenarios of use.
  • Visibility/Immediacy of Actions: make primary actions visible in the interface (Play and Plus); preference the top scenarios in navigation (fewest clicks).
  • Offer the right experience for the context: build different product expressions to deliver the right customer value at the right points.
  • Effortless access to music: customers should be able to find something they want to listen to quickly and easily.
  • Cross platform tensions: how many features to include vs. what to take out for context. Shared/social use vs. personal/private use.

Challenges

  • Legacy products were built at different times by different teams.
  • Features everywhere: it is difficult to include every feature on every device. You have to make decisions.
  • Release timing–differences: deployed at different times by different teams.
  • Platform constraints: limits of different software & hardware systems. Need to optimize for each.