The distinguishing features between the desktop experience and mobile experience is often lost in the blended usability across platforms. It only takes really blunt differences in functionality for something that works on desktop to match the same experience on mobile. This is why something like Microsoft Word or Google Docs is terribly difficult to use on mobile.
This sentiment works the other way around. Some mobile experiences cannot be translated very well to desktop. Take the ridesharing application Uber, on a desktop it loses a great deal of value. The whole point of it is that it is a distinctly mobile experience and works best on mobile.
Having a constant feed of update information, be it Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, or The New York Times does not seem like an immediate breakthrough in mobile UX, but it arguably motivated the development of it. More limited and constrained postable content translates to a more favorable mobile experience.
Take Facebook’s feed for example, it is highly interactive and the desktop experience on the feed can be heavy. Users can open up links in different tabs, profiles, and pictures too. On mobile there are more steps to have the same experience. Now Instagram on the other hand is deliberately limited in it’s functionality.
The feed has only a couple of options:
- Copy/Share URL
That’s it. The desktop experience is the same, except users can’t see hashtag trends. The feed and it’s simplicity is a staple feature in networking applications, from Linkedin to OkCupid. Integrating this feature has become a must for many.
Evolving out of a need to type faster, one of the first iterations of swipe functionality can be identified with the Nuance’s Swype keyboard. Swype allowed users to input text faster on a touchscreen, and indeed many operating systems offer that service or something similar.
Out of this came the swipe to make a yes/no input for commands in applications. The swipe is now an intuitive command familiar to many mobile users. It is not an exclusive tool for dating applications either. Behaving as a gesture it is in totality a tool for mobile. Swipe would not work on any desktop experience in the same way.
Breakthroughs do not have to be complex. The simplicity behind the swipe gesture is why it is such a highly regarded gesture. Using it as a tool in design and development provides users with a quick option for making choices, which on mobile is an essential function.
Hashtagging seemed to come out of nowhere. Chris Messina is the first to have published any content on the hashtag. It was meant to use a hyperlinked grouping tool to connect posted content. Twitter implemented it and the rest is history.
It’s presence on mobile is arguably much more usable versus something on a desktop. The UX of hashtagging on mobile brings relevant content together for the user to consume quickly on the go. Hashtags on desktop seem ill placed and an unnecessary tool to see what the ‘fuss’ is about. Trends present themselves on desktop with multiple resources including easy accessibility to search engines, or references from others in a feed. As in the Instagram mention above, it does not include the ‘explore hashtag,’ feature on desktop.
SnapChat as a Whole
SnapChat has a terrible desktop website and is totally unusable without a mobile device. It changed the game in countless ways but at it’s very core SnapChat is a mobile experience first.
Putting aside the obvious nuances of an application like SnapChat, it is clear to see that it’s dedicated mobile functionality is the driving factor of its success. It also emerged at a perfect time with smartphone ownership exploding. The user experience met a precipice in usability that simply cannot be translated onto any other platform. It broke a mold in a way that Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc… could not replicate because the desktop component is just not in the picture whatsoever.
The future of this type of ideation and development for mobile will go into user experience research for years to come. Cross platform functionality may not be the most effective route for these businesses to pursue.