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The Limits of User Experience

When you’re building your mobile application, you’re sure to spend a fair amount of time looking at User Experience (UX); making sure that your target audience has just as easy of of a time using it as you do. Mobile devices, as powerful as they are, are also inherently limited compared to their desktop counterparts. When you’re looking to optimize the user experience of your application, be sure to  these limitations keep in mind and do some brainstorming to address any issues your target audience may face.

Small Screens

Even though it seems we’re in the midst of a Battle of the Biggest fight between gargantuan iPhone Plus models and tablets, there is still a limit to the screen size, which prohibits accessing the same immersive full screen displays as seen on desktops computers. Because of this, as an app developer, you need to acknowledge that you won’t be able to fit the same amount of content on the display. To give you an idea, the content displayed above the fold on a 30 inch monitor requires 5 screenfuls on a small 4 inch screen. Because of this, mobile app users need to incur a higher interaction cost to be able to access the same amount of information. They also need to rely much more heavily on their short term memory to refer to information that isn’t on screen.

The Limits of User Experience

When you’re designing your mobile application, you really need to be economical about how much screen space you use and for which content. What opportunity costs is associated with the inclusion of each new element? If you choose to include Content A, what do you lose by not including Content B. It’s highly important to weigh the priority of each element.


By definition, mobile devices are, well, mobile. Most of us never leave our homes without our phones. Since our mobile devices are used in such a wide range of situations, our experiences with mobile phones are also known to interrupted frequently. An external event can easily distract your attention away from an app. In fact, the average duration of a mobile app experience is around 70 seconds. As the developer, you need to mold your app around your user’s mobile habits, and not hope that they’ll change their mobile habits around your app. You should look to design your application around these short mobile app experiences, allowing users to pick up where they left with a sort of “saving” feature. You should also consider the possibility of your users not returning to pick up where they left off. Try to present the most vital information first and foremost into the user’s experience. If you provide them with too much information, you won’t be accommodating to the interuptive nature of the mobile experience.

“Try to present the most vital information first and foremost into the user’s experience.”

The Limits of One Window

Oftentimes, phone manufacturers try to accommodate user needs by incorporating more than one screen into the display. However, this can often become confusing and cluttered. Mobile devices don’t allow for the same sort of window splitting that comes easily on a desktop. To accommodate for this single window situation, consider making your mobile app self sufficient. Any functions you feel are integral to the application should be able to be completed within one application or one webpage. Your users shouldn’t need to leave your application to accomplish a certain task (this all goes back to acknowledging the interuptive nature of mobile application). If you’re app doesn’t provide all the information a user may need, don’t expect them to bust out the pen and paper to remember something from another app; instead, expect them to close your app.

There are loads of other limiting factors related to accommodating user experience in mobile app development, but what are your biggest frustrations? What sort of new UX developments would you like to see in mobile app technology?

Doug Atkinson

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