Do you have a smart phone? I do, and chances are you do as well. In fact, research from Mary Meeker shows that today there are over $2.5 billion smartphone users around the world. Much like the internet before it smart phones and the rising use of mobile devices is a technology trend that is influencing many facets of our lives today, both personal and professional.
Over the last few years mobile has driven significant changes in how, where and when we use the internet. The internet’s initial value proposition of – all the world’s information available to anyone – has now become – all the world’s information available anywhere. This constant connectivity has impacted all areas of our lives, from how we navigate around town, to how we do our work, even to how we shop. In fact, earlier this year mobile use reached a very significant milestone. During Black Friday mobile shoppers in the US accounted for over $1 billion in sales for the first time ever.
But this trend has as much to do with how pervasive mobile has become as it does with the evolution in how developers and designers have started to consider the mobile experience itself. It’s been said that technology at its best doesn’t just make a task easier, but it can change the nature of the task itself. The evolution of how we use mobile is one of the best embodiment of this.
Changing the Nature of a Task
Take a simple consumer example – Gaming. As a child of the 80s I watched the rapid rise and evolution of the video game industry. For most of my life, I watched as game developers created gaming experiences that focused on increasingly vivid graphics along with increasingly complex control schemes and mechanics. Going from Atari, to 8-bit to 16-bit to the photorealism and 100 button controllers of today’s modern gaming systems.
Then came a little red bird, on a phone. The developers at Rovio looked to the mobile revolution as an emerging platform for a different kind of gaming experience. Simple, intuitive and touch friendly. That started an empire. Angry Birds has shown us that gaming on the go can be something entirely different than what came before it. Short bursts of puzzle solving that is easy to pick and can help pass the time before an appointment or during a commute is now one of the fastest growing segments in not just gaming but all of entertainment.
But it’s not just games that have made this evolutionary jump in user experience, but other apps as well. Take one of the rare apps that gets more usage than Angry Birds – Facebook. When was the last time you logged into Facebook through a mobile browser? If you didn’t know you could do that, you can. But that Facebook browser experience is probably the best tangible example of the evolution of mobile user experience when it comes to data driven applications.
The mobile browser version of Facebook works but it doesn’t feel quite right. And not just because of the latency inherent with an in-browser experience, but also because the experience itself is simply a shrunken down version of the desktop browser experience, and thus doesn’t take full advantage of all that mobile has to offer, the way that Angry Birds did. The Facebook mobile browser view is a holdover from an earlier phase of mobile development focused simply on responsive design rather than mobile experience. Whereas developers used to focus on getting apps to simply work on mobile, today’s developers focus on the experience first so that apps belong on mobile.
This is a design shift that is happening in the world of enterprise mobile apps as well.
Users today expect that if an application is on mobile that it will be design to work better on a mobile device. This is what’s driving a shift away from responsive design as a primary focus back to a focus on native mobile experiences built specifically for Android and IOS.
Implications for Health & Safety
This is an especially important discussion for safety professionals and safety management systems and applications. Safety tasks such as incident reporting often rely on long and time consuming forms and checklists. In the days of paper or even in a desktop environment these might make sense as paper is dynamic and sitting at a desk in front of a computer implies a certain amount of time and focus that can be allocated for a task.
However these days mobile devices in the pockets (and hands) of front line workers open up the potential for a wider breadth of data being captured with regards to safety. Data points such as hazard observations and unsafe behaviors can greatly enhance the level of insight that data analysis can produce. However they also require a different approach to the user experience of performing these data capture tasks. They need to have a mobile first view. To streamline the effort involved by really taking advantages of the inherent capabilities of the devices themselves, while also fitting seamlessly into the pre-built expectations of mobile users. Photos, and voice recordings can offer equally robust data, at a fraction of the effort that yesterday’s forms and checklists can offer. And again these capabilities are best utilized as a native experience rather than a shrunken down version of what’s available on a desktop.
What to Look For
So when considering a mobile safety solution, here are two additional things to consider:
- Is it field tested and battle ready?
Being developed in the field with front line user input is crucial. That means the app has been optimized for ease, convenience, speed, and relevance in the environment and circumstances where end users put it to use. Beautiful scorecards might light up a Safety Manager’s interest, but the real question to ask is: Does this tool work in the hands of my workers who are on the front lines and at the highest risk?
Approaching 100% adoption and engagement of EHS mobile is the only route to achieving 100% safety.
- Are configurable views unique to/optimized for mobile?
User-friendly design is critical for field users. Remember that mobile is not just about shrinking a screen. Indeed, many enterprise mobile apps remain fixated on individual “page” views while neglecting the more important design elements.
Consider the user experience in navigating within the app versus just the final destination page.
Ultimately, a successful enterprise mobile app is more than just getting your app working on a smaller screen, it’s about user experience too. A user experience that factors in the reality of the users day to day tasks as well as their expectations as it relates to the tools they use.
Learn more about how Intelex is adapting to this new mobile revolution here.