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Why creating a cross platform digital experience matters

There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years about the “Year of the Mobile”. I first heard this phrase in 2010. We’ve since surpassed that. Mobile communication is now a ubiquitous norm.

Mobile usage is eating into our free time

Rand Fishkin of Moz shared this graphic from the annual Mary Meeker report with this tweet: “Mobile isn’t killing desktop, its killing our free time“.

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Total time spent on digital media has meanwhile doubled from 2.7 hours in 2008 to 5.6 hours in 2015. Instead of replacing time spent on desktops and laptops, mobile usage is increasingly eating into our free time.

There’s also no doubt that “other connected devices” will also grow over time with the advent of smart watches, smart televisions and the internet of things.

Benedict Evans, a venture capitalist from A16z, echoes similar sentiments in his podcast, “The year mobile dominated tech“.

Need for cross platform interactions

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A lot of businesses are starting to look into cross-platform communications.

They need to be on the web and have both iOS and Android apps. If a user is using one platform (web), they need to be able to communicate with another user on another platform (mobile). Cross platform, according to Wayne Gretzky, is where the puck is going. Despite mobile usage increasing, consumers and businesses are missing what makes each of these media unique.

Higher session frequency & shorter session lengths

Mobile devices are used more frequently. We may look at them a few times in an hour for say, 30 times a day. Hence, mobile devices have a higher session frequency.

In addition, mobile devices have shorter session lengths. We can spend an hour or two in front of our computers. Session lengths on mobile devices are likely to be 5 minutes or so.

For example, one may log in to Instagram to check out photo updates from their friends while waiting for the bus. They receive a WhatsApp push notification from a group chat. They briefly check work emails for responses from the boss.

On smart watches, session lengths might be even shorter, perhaps 10 seconds or so. But the frequency of these sessions could be up to 100 times a day.

Cross platform user experiences

Where I believe the puck is really moving to in 2016 is a connected cross platform user experience. We don’t use devices in isolation of each other. We transition between devices. It’s where apps and services are moving and many are now available across platforms. But the experience hasn’t necessarily caught up yet.

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The evolution of digital media looks something like this.

  1. Desktop: Websites / web apps / desktop apps
  2. Mobile: Mobile apps
  3. Available cross platform: iOS, Android, Windows, other tablet apps
  4. Cohesive cross platform experience: Across web + mobile + smart devices

We don’t decide whether to use web or mobile devices. We use the web and mobile devices.

We need to consider how to create a connected experience across devices. The web should be thought of simply as another user interface. The challenge now is to create a smooth and amazing cross platform user experience.

These are some great examples of my experiences so far.

We don’t decide whether to use web or mobile devices. We use web and mobile devices.

I watch videos on YouTube. I might start watching a video on my laptop in my bedroom. I notice that the video is 40 minutes long. So I’ll save the video to a playlist to watch it more comfortably on my smart television in my living room. It takes two clicks to save and select the “Watch Later” playlist. I’ll then go to living room. I’ll turn on the television which is connected to the  Apple TV. I’ll select the YouTube app on Apple TV. I’ll go back to my playlist, click “resume” and continue where I left off.

It is the same now with Netflix. I can choose the video I was watching and it will resume from the same point I left off on another device. This is not limited to video content.

When I use Slack and transition between the desktop and mobile app, it remembers the point where I last read. It wouldn’t show me content that I’ve already read.

When I play a game on iPhone or Apple TV, it uses Game Center to save my points and game profile to create a connected experience.

I can save a link using Pocket on Chrome browser to read later, then open the Pocket app to finish the article while in transit.

As seen, the digital landscape is shifting toward creating a connected user experience. The challenge is now to create a cohesive user experience between devices.

An integrated digital experience

But it’s not just about adding that cohesive layer from device to device. Apps and devices have also to complement each other. For example, should I need to do certain calculations while working on Google Docs on my laptop, I’ll whip out my mobile phone to use its calculator app. The form factor has changed, I now use my mobile phone as my calculator.

Alternatively, while watching a movie on Netflix, I can use my smart phone’s IMDb app to look up a question I have about the plot. Different digital services now too, can complement each other.

We can also use devices together for the same service.

On WeChat and WhatsApp, I can log in to the web app by scanning a QR code using my mobile app. These services allow for seamless transition between devices. Both the mobile and web app deliver the same content, allowing me to type on the go on their mobile apps while writing longer content on my laptop.

Different uses for different devices

Desktops and laptops are suitable for different things compared to mobile devices.

Even as I use my desktop, I can be working on other things on my mobile devices. On desktop, I might be writing a blog post, designing graphics on Canva, creating a wireframe, creating a podcast on Garage Band. Mobile devices, on the other hand, are more suitable for checking updates or using a native function quickly such as taking a photo.

Creating a unified cross-platform experience

The proliferation of devices requires us to think beyond having our services as being simply available across platforms. We need to think about how it benefits users being on multiple platforms.

Integrating user experience across devices

I might check out a pair of glasses on Warby Parker mobile website while I’m out for lunch. But I’ll also feel more comfortable transacting on my desktop. So I can have a connected experience by finding and bookmarking the pair of glasses I really liked, and buy them later when I go back to my desktop.

Having a user account, for example, can create a hand off point where a saved game can be accessed across all devices.

Devices to enhance complementary services

The service must still be able to be used as a single platform utility. But if I have a secondary device, how can I interact with the first platform to make an even more awesome experience?

Perhaps its controlling my Chromecast on my television using my mobile phone to watch videos. Or I can control my music playlist on stereo using the Spotify app on my phone.

The importance of APIs in a cross platform experience

Being able to access data and services on any platform requires APIs. In creating an integrated multi platform experience, APIs become all the more important. More on that

We need to expose that information via APIs. In a cross platform world, APIs become even more important. Listen to my podcast about it here.

Source : Tech in Asia

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