Blog / #design

Great UX design knows what is unique to the platform

What makes a user experience great? The first answers that pop into one’s head tend to be quite obvious: ease of use, aesthetics and correct functionality. Without a doubt, all of these are important. But what happens when we approach UX design from the point of view of our platform of choice?

Sure, it is important to try and create the best possible user experience for, say, a mobile application. But the point I want to make here is that it is equally crucial to make sure we know exactly why the experience we’re building has to exist as a mobile app in the first place.

A while ago I stumbled across “Her Story”, a deduction game available for both mobile and desktop. In it, the player takes a role of a person who has been granted access to a police terminal in order to investigate a murder that took place in the early 90s. The content consists of short video interviews of a woman who apparently was the main suspect in the case. The user interface is simple: the player enters a search term of his choice to the terminal and, with any luck, discovers new video clips.

It is arguable whether Her Story can even be classified as a “game”. It could easily exist as a movie, miniseries, or even a book. But the experience, as it is, would not work as well in any other medium.

After browsing through the interviews for a while I found myself making notes and building exceedingly complex theories of what had happened. The most beautiful thing about all this is that I ended up doing exactly what the game wanted me to do, without having to explicitly tell me so.

herstory

It is arguable whether Her Story can even be classified as a “game”. It could easily exist as a movie, miniseries, or even a book. But the experience, as it is, would not work as well in any other medium.

Another recent stroke of genius that embraces this idea, albeit from a very different angle, is an app called Quartz. The basic idea, again, is not exactly ground-shatteringly innovative: it’s basically an app for browsing the latest news. However, the thing that makes Quartz unique is the way it presents the news articles to you in an interface that resembles your good old text messaging app. Each headline is a “message” that you can either click to read the whole article or move forward to the next one by replying with humorous, pre-written answers.

quartz-cyan-devices

What Quartz does is take text messaging – something we’re already very accustomed to do in mobile – and utilises it as a canvas for a completely fresh context for clicking through news. Again, what constitutes as the a-ha moment is the knowledge that this approach only feels right at home in this particular format.

So what’s the takeaway? It is true that sometimes building a great, functional, easy-to-use user experience is more than enough. And yet I would argue that the very finest, cream-of-the-crop UX designs are those that justify their existence by doing things that are unique to the platform. There is special kind of magic in stuff that says: “I could not exist anywhere else”.