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Design thinking ensures a better mobile user experience

The best IT shops know how to apply design thinking to the mobile app development process, keeping the mobile user experience at the forefront.

Delivering a strong mobile user experience is critical to application design, but usability and enterprise mobility are frequently at odds. Leading companies bridge the gap with design thinking and journey maps.

I recently attended a workshop where I learned how Design thinking can shift how organizations conceptualize mobile applications and services. Most people think of design as the visual aspects of an application, such as colors, pixels and fonts. The appearance of an application is important, but design thinking is about much more than that. Global design agency Ideo defines it as "a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success." Design thinking focuses on developing deep empathy for the end user (employees, customers, partners) and creating tools that address their needs.

The appearance of an application is important, but design thinking is about much more than that.

The workshop, hosted by IBM, started with an exercise in which each attendee took one minute to design a vase. The designs were uninspiring and basically all the same. Then, the workshop leaders asked us to design a vase to provide a better way to enjoy flowers in the home. The difference in the results was outstanding. The new designs focused on addressing consumer needs, such as sensing dryness, allowing automatic watering and formulating new shapes that could hang from various places.

The workshop leaders explained that design is the intent behind an outcome. Design thinking requires continuous reinvention, where everything is considered a prototype. Human-centered design, as opposed to technical engineering, requires exploring a wide range of options to lead to better outcomes. Design teams have to be comfortable making mistakes. In fact, making a mistake early in the design phase saves time and money. This is the type of thinking that leading consumer companies are pursuing today.

Building a better mobile user experience

It is also how developers, IT professionals and business leaders should think about building enterprise mobile applications. They should work with users to understand their needs. They may do so through interviews or by shadowing employees on their daily workflows.

With that information, organizations should focus on building micro apps that are quick hits. The development team gathers feedback requests and constantly iterates until the micro app evolves into a set of useful workflows. Instead of recreating an existing application or workflow, design thinking forces IT to think of what employees want to use on the go and how mobile devices can help employees do their jobs better by having access to image capture, location and sensor data.

By focusing on what the user needs, organizations can eliminate application bloat, drive mobile app adoption and get greater business value out of enterprise mobility. 

This article originally appeared in the June issue of the Modern Mobility e-zine.

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