How to Elevate Your Mobile UX Strategy: Revelations from the IxDF Course

by Mads Soegaard | | 28 min read
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Mobile makes up over 54% of global website traffic —exceptional mobile user experience are a necessity in our digital-first world. The quality of a mobile user experience can mean the difference between a product that thrives and one that barely survives. With the IxDF Mobile UX Strategy: How to Build Successful Products course, you can learn how to transform your ideas into winning products. Discover the major learning outcomes of the course in this piece.  

You may have a groundbreaking new product with great promise. Yet, a staggering reality awaits. The market sees over 30,000 new products every year, and 95% of these fail. The reason? A lack of understanding of how to launch a product effectively. Often, inadequate market research stands as the root cause

Many companies overlook the importance of mobile user experience and manage to barely surpass the competition. This approach leads to poor mobile user experience and puts off potential customers. This, in turn, leads to a decline in downloads, engagement and revenue for the business. 

You need a good strategy to launch a successful product. Your mobile UX strategy ensures that the mobile experience matches or even exceeds the desktop experience. Ideally, you should strive to design excellent user experiences across all devices. 

Users expect seamless product interaction on a phone, tablet or computer, and a mobile UX strategy addresses these expectations. It optimizes design, functionality and content for mobile platforms. Companies that prioritize mobile UX are more likely to attract and retain more users. 

If you want to learn more about how to create successful products, here are the top nine things you must learn.  

Conduct User Research

The lack of user research often leads to product failure. User research helps us understand several key aspects:

  • User needs and preferences 

  • Pain points and challenges 

  • Usage contexts and environments 

Let's explore how to conduct user research in mobile UX. 

1. Embrace the ‘Get Out of the Building’ Approach

The "Get Out of the Building" approach involves direct interaction with target users in their environment, just like ethnographic research. This method seeks to gather real-world insights and feedback. You can observe and engage with people in their natural environments.  

For example, if you want to develop a fitness app, you might visit local gyms. There, you could watch how people use existing fitness apps. You could also ask them what features they wish those apps had. This direct interaction provides valuable information that can shape the development of a more user-centric product. 

"Get out of the building" can mean you step outside or expand your perspective. When you identify the problems customers face, you can tailor your product to address these needs. This approach leads to meaningful and cost-efficient products, ultimately boosting profitability. 

In this video, Frank Spillers, CEO at Experience Dynamics, talks about the Get Out Of the Building approach.  

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You must have a plan for the GOOB approach—set clear objectives before you engage with potential customers. This plan can include: 

  • Identify the target audience for your product. 

  • Prepare specific questions to understand their needs and preferences. 

  • Choose the suitable locations where you may find your target audience. 

  • Decide on methods for recording feedback, such as notes or voice recordings. 

This structured approach makes interactions with potential customers meaningful. It can help you yield actionable insights

2. Gain Insight into User Preferences with Research

A successful mobile app needs to have a firm grasp of user needs and preferences. For instance, research may reveal that fitness app users prefer easy-to-use tracking features over complex analytics. This specific insight directs the app's design focus towards simplicity and usability. Attitudinal and behavioral approaches in user research provide distinct insights for design teams. 

  • Attitudinal Research focuses on what users say. It captures opinions, preferences and attitudes to understand what users feel about a product or service. This approach helps predict how users may receive new features.  

  • Behavioral Research centers on what users do. It observes real user interactions with a product, often through usability testing, analytics and eye-tracking studies. This method provides concrete data on how users navigate and use a product. 

The two approaches to user research

Attitudinal research records user sentiments and opinions through self-reported data and behavioral research examines user actions. 

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

You can use qualitative research to gather these insights. Qualitative research uses non-numerical methods to uncover detailed insights. This approach focuses on smaller groups through techniques like interviews. It allows researchers to explore attitudes, behaviors and hidden factors to gain a deeper understanding of users' thoughts and feelings. 

Unlike quantitative research, which leans on statistics and numbers, qualitative research reveals users' motivations, hopes, needs and pain points. This rich information guides the design process from the early stages. It helps prevent costly mistakes as you can keep projects aligned with user expectations.  

3. Leverage a Variety of User Research Methods

Qualitative research uses observations, responses and insights for product development. For mobile apps, four key methodologies stand out: 

Diary Studies

Diary studies invite users to document their journey with an app over a certain period. They record when and where they use the app and their immediate thoughts and observations. This method is rich in contextual details. But, it requires participants to remember to log their experiences consistently, which can sometimes be a hurdle. Despite this, the depth of insights you gain is invaluable. 

Lab Studies

Participants use the app in a controlled setting while researchers observe from afar in lab studies. This setup allows for a focused study of user interaction with the app.

However, the controlled environment may not fully mirror real-world usage. There's a risk though. Participants may act unnaturally to please researchers. Only well-designed studies can minimize these issues and yield crucial data. 

Task Analysis

Task analysis focuses closely on how users complete tasks in an app. It examines a few key things:

  • How a person achieves their objectives 

  • The detailed actions taken to finish a task 

  • The unique experience and abilities a person uses to complete a task 

  • The impact of the surroundings on the task performer 

  • The individual's emotions and perceptions for the task 

  • The existing process that culminates in the task's fulfillment 

Researchers observe and record these details. This approach helps you create apps that users find attractive and easy to use. It helps you understand what users need from the app at each step. With this insight, you can make apps more user-friendly and intuitive.

Task analysis differentiates between an app that looks good and one that feels good to use. It helps you create apps that meet and exceed user expectations. 

Task analysis is an important technique in user research. Frank discusses more about this technique in this video.  

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Ethnographic Field Studies

Ethnographic field studies take researchers into the natural environments of their users. This method helps you understand the app's role in the user's daily life. You can also learn about the broader cultural, social and emotional contexts that influence how and why users use the app.   

These studies combine various techniques, such as contextual interviews and task analysis, to offer a holistic view of the user experience. 

Plan the Mobile UX Strategy

A well-defined strategy aligns with user needs, behaviors and preferences to make mobile interactions seamless, intuitive and engaging. Here’s how you can start:  

1. Use Mental Models

Mental models represent what users believe about how systems, like websites or apps, work. Jakob Nielsen, Co-founder of NN Group, defines them as what the user believes about the system. Users rely on these models to easily navigate new digital products based on past experiences.  

For instance, someone familiar with weather apps expects certain features, like forecast locations or temperature displays, to be in specific places. If you match these expectations in a new app quickly, it makes the user comfortable. 

Most people have similar mental models for common tasks, such as online shopping or searching for information. You design with these shared models to smooth out the user experience. 

You can determine users' mental models through user research methods like interviews and testing. This shows what users expect from a product—if things don't match up, you can change the design or help users with tutorials or demos. 

Create a Conceptual Model out of a Mental Model

Conceptual models turn users' mental models into visual representations.  

  • First, you gather user research insights through interviews and surveys.  

  • Second, observe how users interact with products.  

  • From these insights, you develop visual guides. These guides show how they believe users perceive and engage with the system.   

These visual guides can use common formats like flowcharts, diagrams, wireframes or prototypes.  

Conceptual models clearly explain the design process and how you expect users to interact with the product or service. This clarity helps you align the design process with user expectations.  

You can sketch conceptual models early to save time. It also helps streamline the development of user interfaces. This approach leads to applications that match users' thoughts and behaviors.  

2. Focus on Content Strategy and UX Writing

Content shapes user experience in the digital world. People use their devices to find answers, solve problems or enjoy entertainment. Thus, you must prioritize content in mobile UX design.

Sites like Reddit and Wikipedia thrive on high-quality content. It proves that if you give users a choice, they will prefer quality content over visual appeal. 

Ultimately, users visit your website for its content. Everything else is just the backdrop.” 

- Jakob Nielsen, Co-founder of NN Group

When you think about content, it extends beyond just long-form articles. A strong content strategy reflects a business's values. It establishes credibility and fosters user trust. This trust turns visitors into customers. 

Examples of UX writing on Airbnb’s mobile app. 

UX writing is crucial to create smooth and intuitive user experiences. It addresses and resolves pain points.  

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0 and Airbnb, Fair Use

First, you understand user needs through research when you can start to create engaging content. UX writers use clear and concise language to craft messages that prompt action. They align these messages with the user's mental models to create content that resonates. 

A good content strategy also considers localization. Use real text, not just placeholders, to get accurate translations for everyone worldwide. Designs should fit text from different languages that don’t cause layout problems. 

3. Follow Mobile UX Best Practices

Certain mobile UX guidelines can help you improve the user experience. These rules help make your app smooth to use on any device. Here is a look at these guidelines: 

  1. Simplify navigation: Keep navigation simple and intuitive. Users should find what they need with minimal taps. Use recognizable icons and clear labels. 

  2. Optimize for touch: Design with touch in mind. Make buttons and interactive elements large enough to tap easily. Consider the thumb's reach when you place key elements. 

  3. Minimize input effort: Reduce the need to type. Utilize dropdowns, toggles and auto-complete functions. Offer alternatives like voice input where possible. 

  4. Enhance readability: Choose easy-to-read fonts and sizes on small screens. Contrast text with the background to enhance visibility. 

  5. Make fast loading a priority: Optimize images and code for quick loading times. Users expect instant access to information and features. 

  6. Design for interruptions: Mobile users are often on the move. Design your app to handle interruptions gracefully. It should save progress automatically where needed. 

  7. Test across devices: Make sure your app provides a consistent experience across different devices and operating systems. Regularly test to identify and fix issues. 

  8. Focus on accessibility: Incorporate accessibility features to cater to all users, including those with disabilities. Use screen reader-friendly layouts and provide text alternatives for images. 

  9. Provide feedback: Give users immediate feedback on their actions. Visual cues or haptic feedback enhance the interaction experience. It makes the app feel responsive and alive. 

  10. Prioritize privacy and security: Be transparent about data usage. Provide secure authentication methods and protect user data to build trust. 

Enhance UX with User Testing and Accessibility

You must create intuitive and inclusive apps to reach a wider audience. User testing and accessibility play a big role in this. These practices ensure that your product meets the diverse needs and preferences of all users. 

1. Make the Product Accessible for Mobile

Mobile accessibility ensures that everyone can use apps and websites on their phones. This includes people with disabilities who find it hard to see, hear, move or think. When you make your app easy for everyone to use, you reach more people and improve everyone's experience. 

Best Practices for Mobile Accessibility

  1. Use large, legible fonts: Choose font sizes and styles that users can easily read on small screens. Clear text helps users with visual impairments. 

  2. Provide sufficient contrast: Text and background colors should contrast well. High contrast makes content readable even under different lighting conditions or for those with low vision. 

  3. Make interactive elements easy to tap: Make buttons and links large enough to tap easily. This helps users with motor difficulties. 

  4. Provide alt text for images: Describe images with alternative text. Screen readers use this text to convey image content to users who cannot see them. 

  5. Enable voice commands: Voice recognition allows users to navigate and interact through voice commands. This feature benefits users with physical or visual impairments. 

  6. Offer subtitles and transcriptions: Include subtitles for videos and transcriptions for audio content. This practice helps users who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

  7. Test with screen readers: Regularly test your app with screen readers to ensure compatibility. This check helps identify areas that need improvement.  

2. Focus on Mobile Usability

Mobile usability ensures that mobile apps and websites are easy and efficient for users to navigate and interact with, regardless of their device or context. While accessibility focuses on digital products that can be used by people with disabilities, usability focuses on optimizing the overall user experience for everyone.  

The role of accessibility and usability in user experience 

Accessibility and usability in user experience ensures that everyone has access to a good user experience, irrespective of how they view a product.  

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Google shared best practices for mobile app usability to enhance user satisfaction and retention. We have already discussed all the tips above, but here’s a recap.  

  • Use easy-to-read fonts.  

  • Make sure users can access key information offline. 

  • Make buttons big enough for easy tapping. 

  • Keep controls where users expect them to prevent mistakes. 

  • Load things fast to keep users happy. 

  • Use pop-ups for simple tasks without losing progress. 

  • Place action buttons where users can easily see and tap them. 

  • For forms, protect user data and guide users. Use animations to make interactions fun.  

Google also pinpointed four key mistakes in mobile app design that can harm the user experience. 

  • Don’t use the same design for Android and iOS apps. They should look different. 

  • Skip underlined links. In apps, use buttons instead. 

  • Keep users within your app, not in a web browser. 

  • Wait before you ask for ratings. Let users enjoy the app first. 

3. Prioritize User Testing

In user testing, you get real users to interact with your app to observe their behavior and gather feedback. This process helps identify any usability issues or areas for improvement. It helps you create a final product that will meet the needs and expectations of its intended users. 

  • In the early stages of design, user testing can reveal how users understand your app's navigation and if they can achieve their goals smoothly.  

  • As you refine the design, testing helps fine-tune interactions and interfaces for better usability.  

  • Before launch, it ensures the app works well in real-world scenarios. You can check if the app provides a seamless experience for all users. 

Several popular user testing methods help improve mobile UX design

  • Usability testing: This involves observing users as they complete tasks on your app. It highlights areas where users struggle and what works well. 

  • Surveys and questionnaires: After using the app, users provide feedback through surveys, which gather opinions on the user experience. 

  • A/B testing: In this method, you compare two versions of a page or app feature. Users' interactions determine which version performs better. 

  • Interviews: One-on-one interviews offer deep insights into users' thoughts and feelings about the app. 

  • Eye tracking: This method tracks where and how long users look at different parts of the app screen. It shows what attracts user attention and what they ignore. 

About the Mobile UX Strategy: How to Build Successful Products Course

Mobile UX Strategy: How to Build Successful Products is a 4-week journey into the heart of mobile UX design. Throughout this course, you will gain skills to distinguish your mobile UX strategy and make smart design decisions. You’ll engage with topics such as user research, interface evaluation and the nuances of mobile user behavior.  

The course emphasizes practical learning. It offers best practices and strategies that can help you design successful products. 

This course suits a wide range of professionals who want to deepen their understanding of mobile UX design: 

  • UX and UI designers aiming to improve their mobile strategy and focus on user-centric design. 

  • Software developers who want to include UX principles in their development for enhanced user experiences. 

  • Entrepreneurs and business stakeholders seeking a market edge through a robust mobile UX strategy. 

  • Product designers keen on learning how mobile UX strategy influences project success and user satisfaction. 

  • Marketers desiring improved collaboration with product teams to create unique products. 

  • Design educators wishing to keep abreast of mobile UX strategy trends to enrich their curriculum. 

The "Build Your Portfolio" project is a core part of this course. It allows you to apply what you've learned through practical exercises. These hands-on activities reinforce your understanding and help you create a comprehensive case study for your portfolio. This project is a valuable showcase of your new mobile UX design capabilities. 

Led by Frank Spillers, CEO of Experience Dynamics, an author, speaker and renowned expert in usability, this course offers a rich learning experience. Frank’s expertise brings you the latest in research and real-world examples. It equips you with the knowledge to enhance mobile user experiences. 

Where to Learn More

Enroll in the Mobile UX Strategy: How to Build Successful Products course. It’s a part of an IxDF membership. To become a member, sign up here.  

Read our topic definition on Mobile user experience (UX) Design

For more practical tips on Mobile UX, read a comprehensive guide to mobile app design

Get inspiration from top Mobile UX designs on Dribbble.

See the percentage of mobile device website traffic worldwide from 1st quarter 2015 to 4th quarter 2023.

Learn why 95% of new products launched on the market fail (and how you can prevent it from happening to you)

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Soegaard, M. (2024, May 7). How to Elevate Your Mobile UX Strategy: Revelations from the IxDF Course. Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF.

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New to UX Design? We’re Giving You a Free ebook!

The Basics of User Experience Design

Download our free ebook The Basics of User Experience Design to learn about core concepts of UX design.

In 9 chapters, we’ll cover: conducting user interviews, design thinking, interaction design, mobile UX design, usability, UX research, and many more!

A valid email address is required.
312,266 designers enjoy our newsletter—sure you don’t want to receive it?