How does context-aware design help creating user-centered apps?

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In the ideal world, when users open your app, it would automatically adjust for their needs without even bothering them to answer lots of personal questions or go through a long process of finding what they need. But guess what? User-centric interfaces do exist nowadays, thanks to contextual design. It’s fascinating that most of the time we don’t even think about how a particular app caught our attention. We enjoy using it, love it’s simplicity and don’t get annoyed withat it, because it simply doesn’t make push us to do unnecessary steps to get the result we want.

So what is contextual design? It’s a user-centered design process that goes through particular steps such as data gathering and its interpretation, revealing patterns and prototyping to boost the overall performance of your mobile application. Let’s get specific and look at some of its key characteristics.

Data driven design

In order to adjust an interface to particular users, the app first needs somean information about them. There’re several kinds of data your app can collect:

  • the information about user’s device and its operating system;

  • geographical location;

  • time and date;

  • search history, etc.

And this data can be very useful. For example, if you know what kind of device and operating system your user has, you will be aware of the functionality that is applicable to it. If the phone has special features, why not use them! Identifying users’ geolocation is a must for the majority of mobile apps: with this data your app can give directions, tag pictures, find places and events around the user, show local news and weather. You uUser can set reminders if the app knows the time and the date. Using search history is another great thingfeature. If your service offers tickets, it can memorize desired dates and directions and send a notification when they get cheaper. Or if you have a store, the app could learn what kind of products your users like and based on that shows them similar ones, which might instantly increase the amount of purchases.

Delightful for user

Great design is invisible. With user-centered apps, customers simply enjoy the experience without overthinking it. They may not know what makes your app work, what algorithms does it use, but they will come back to it over and over again, because great apps are addictive. Adding little personalized features to your application will help to create a long lasting impression. For example, if some guy named Adam opens your app and sees «Nice to see your, Adam» on the screen, you got his attention. Another great example is greetings. Remember those cute balloons on your Twitter page on your Birthday? It makes you smile every year. Those tiny things help with building users’ loyalty and effect their overall satisfaction.

Functional design

Besides the delight your customers get, user-centric interface can offer even more to your business. It can guide your customers through the purchasing process and make them go all the way. Did the user put a product in a cart, but forgot to buy it? The system will remind them about it the next time they open the app. Is there an error on the screen? Show a clear instruction how to fix it, so the user can continue an interaction instead of closing and deleting the app. Simplify the payment process, using the credit card information your app already has. These steps show that contextual design offers will easily boost your profits.

Challengeing for developers

User-centered apps are great, but there’re things you should be aware of before making a final decision to build them. First of all, it requires professional developers and designers. Contextual design process is not easy. UX specialists should analyze users’ behavior and recreate all the possible paths. It’s not enough to draw just one interface,interface; you’ll need way more than that for each scenario. Professional app developers will know how to gather and analyze the data in order to use it, but there might be a situation when your user will not let an app access some particular kind data, so your team will have to figure out how the interface will respond in this casesituation. There’s more work for developers to do and more places where mistakes can be made, which leads us to the highly required testing. The whole process of building the user-centric interface might take more time than just the regular app development. But even though contextual design process can be tricky and difficult, it is almost certainly worth it.

User-centered apps tend to stand out, beat competitors and make your customers feel special, like the interface you designed was tailored especially for them. There are more and more apps nowadays that use contextual design in their mobile applications and that is definitely something you should consider.

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