I recently read “Mobilized” by SC Moatti, “an insider’s guide to the business and future of connected technology.” SC Moatti is a mobile veteran from Silicon Valley, having developed successful mobile products and services at the likes of Nokia, Facebook and Trulia. Moatti makes the book’s intentions clear in the first chapter: with businesses increasingly shifting their strategic focus to mobile, there’s a need to create a truly mobile culture and mindset within the business. To help companies become mobile first, Moatti introduces the “Mobile Formula” which contains the three rules for successful mobile products:
SC Moatti’s “Mobile Formula”, the three rules of successful mobile products — Taken from: https://www.leanplum.com/blog/mobilized-on-mobile/
The Body Rule — The best mobile products operate by beauty: Contrary to what one might expect, the beauty in mobile products isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about eliminating waste. ‘Efficiency’ is the keyword here and Moatti refers to the Birkhoff formula in this respect: M=O/C. In this formula, M is a measure of beauty, O of simplicity and C of complexity. Beauty will increase with simplicity and will decrease through complexity.
Measure simplicity through the “thumb test”: Ultimately, the best measure of simplicity is to create a product that’s easy to use by everyone. The so-called “thumb test” is a great way to test whether your product is easy to use. To pass the thumb test, a task should be easily completed by a user with a thumb of average size and without incidentally hitting an unrelated link, button or design element by mistake. Take a look at AnkiDroid for instance. The flash cards on AnkiDroid’s Android app make it easy to learn words in a different language, with clear buttons and calls to actions (see Fig. 1 below).
Fig. 1 — Screenshot of AnkiDroid — Taken from: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-flash-card-apps-for-android-compared-which-is-the-best/
Even the “thumb test” will become redundant (eventually): With voice command software like Apple’s Siri ,GreenOwl’s service TrafficAlert and virtual reality all being hands free, the thumb test will eventually become a thing of the past (see Fig. 2 below). Moatti argues that the principle underpinning the thumb test will still apply: beauty on mobile means that all user interactions need to work effortlessly and efficiently.
Fig. 2 — Screenshot of TrafficAlert — Taken from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greenowl.ta.android
The Spirit Rule — The best mobile products give us meaning: When describing ‘meaning’ in the context of mobile products, Moatti identifies ‘personalisation’ and ‘community’ as the two key factors that add meaning. One might argue that these two factors contradict each other, but Moatti makes compelling arguments for both. Firstly, ‘personalisation’ is all about the user feeling cared for, by giving the user total control of the mobile experience. Contrary to what one might think, recent research shows that mobile products create deeper bonds between users and their communities. For example, a study by Kyung-Gook Park at the University of Florida illustrates how mobile products make people feel more connected to those around them.
Building for meaning — Mobile products as extensions of our spirit: Moatti makes some great points about the use of internal and external filters to create mobile products with meaning. Internal filters, Moatti explains, can be as simple as our location or address book. These internal filters help in connecting users to their environment; using location or user based data to create a personalised experience for the user (see example in Fig. 3 below).
Fig. 3 — Personalisation through onboarding on Beats’ mobile streaming service — Taken from: http://www.appvirality.com/blog/personalization-in-retail-apps/
The Mind Rule — The best mobile products learn as we use them: The mind rule is the final component of Moatti’s Mobile Formula. Mobile products constantly adapting is of the essence here. This adaptation can happen either fast or slow. Messaging app WhatsApp is a good example of adapting fast. The team at WhatsApp have adopted a culture of ‘continuous learning’ where they learn from users and their behaviours on an ongoing basis, adding new features constantly. This is driven by a realisation that in order to keep up with the competition, they’ll need to adapt relentlessly.
In contrast, slow learning is all about breaking new ground, focusing on new users or launching new offerings. It basically comes down to taking one’s fast or iterative learnings to the next level; creating new mobile divisions to conquer a new target market or value proposition. Whereas an existing mobile product or business might not be the best place to explore new territory, due to a fear of alienating an existing customer base, a completely separate app might be a better place to do so.
Main learning point: “Mobilized” really made me think about how to approach the creation and improvement of mobile products. Most books on mobile products concentrate on design. The great thing about SC Moatti’s book is that it focuses on the mobile user instead, and provides great insights on how to best create a great user experience.
Related links for further learning: