Designing with Context in Mind
In April of 2016, Glassdoor hit a major milestone in not only our growth but in how users are interacting with our platform. For the first time, mobile users outnumbered desktop users. We have been watching this trend for a few years and we knew it was going to happen. It actually happening is a catalyst for how we are approaching design and communicating our users to the wider product team. Today over 60% of sessions are on a mobile device and we are now looking at the context of the Job Seeker to drive key user experience decisions throughout the whole product design process. This article will discuss how we approaching context in definition and process in an attempt to change from a desktop first, to a mobile/Context first product team. So How Were We Designing? Let’s start with how most companies review a design, using bank machines as an example. Below is a representation of how a bank machine UI is displayed to the stakeholders in a normal critique: How that interface actually manifests in the real world is a lot more complicated than what is shown above. There is location and the bank machine itself. The context of the physical reality radically changes the above user experience. In most situations, when reviewing with stakeholders, we as designers provide the ideal situation to interact with this product — in this case, well-lit areas that are idealistic in showcasing and highlighting the product itself. Example of this interaction is shown below: The actual experience is this however: As you can see, there is a very big disconnect between how we represent the experience of using a bank machine to the stakeholders and the actual experience of using a bank machine. Wait lines, emotional states and lighting radically change in the field when compared to how the product is showcased in design. So What Is Context? In the early days of developing product for the internet, context was very fixed. You were sitting in front of a computer screen that was plugged into a wall and the amount of outside influence to the experience you were creating was minimal. Once mobile technology came into play, though, this began to change. Access to the internet started to show up outside of the desktop, and bank machines are an example of this. Today, when you look at a typical person’s daily schedule, the internet is with them every step of the way. Most people are awoken by their phone alarm and immediately check social media. From there, they interact with a myriad of connected devices from toothbrushes and scales that connect to an app to app-controlled coffee mugs that keep your coffee at certain temperature. Once they get in their car, they listen to Spotify or a podcast, and the car itself might have wifi. At work, they are constantly connected, from cloud documents to emails and Slack. Upon arriving at home, Netflix is in the background as they look up recipes on tablets and use Alexa or Google Home to set timers or listen to the news. Essentially, the experience of all of these interactions are radically different depending on the context of the user, whether it’s location, time of day or state of mind. Because of the transition to mobile devices, context — how, when and where our products are used — becomes more important to successful user experience. So how are we approaching designing product now? For starters, everyone has to understand that context is not just time and place anymore. Let’s go back to the bank machine example:…
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