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The Critical Part of Enterprise Mobile Unified Communications is UX

September 04, 2014 by

Increasingly, vendors that get the mobile user experience (UX) right are winning in their markets. Look at the example of Mailbox, which Dropbox acquired for $100M last year. Of all the things to go and create, they chose an email client, but one where the user experience had been reimagined from the ground up for mobile platforms. These guys got a crazy valuation and exit for an early stage company by taking an old idea and significantly improving the mobile user experience.

Unified communications is no exception to this rule, and increasingly I believe that getting the mobile UC user experience right will separate the winners and losers. We’ve been building mobile UC apps for some time now at Thinking Phones, and our understanding and approach to mobile UC has evolved quite a bit. One of the first things we realized is that you can’t just port your desktop or web apps to the mobile platform. You really need to start from scratch and redesign your app for mobile platforms from the ground up.

We debated long and hard about native versus HTML5 apps, ultimately deciding to go with native. This is much more work involved in dealing with multiple platforms, but it allows you to achieve the best possible user experience on your target platform by using native UI elements. An often overlooked point is that engineering a great user experience requires folks with mobile design skills. Too often, I’ve seen mobile projects driven only by engineers with no design folks involved. Good mobile designers are an absolutely critical part of the development team.

To show a concrete example, I pulled a screenshot of some of the design work we did when working on our SMS messaging feature. The user and screen flows that our mobile designers created were debated and iterated upon in some detail before we did any implementation. We were asking a lot of questions around how many taps and swipes it took to accomplish a given task, and what options made sense to offer to the user at various points in the flow. This is a continuous process, and in subsequent releases we often revisit existing features and flows with improvements versus working on new features.

Many of our enterprise customers struggle with BYOD and grumble that the trend has led to a loss of control over their environment. Even worse, they are spending significant amounts of money on PBX and physical handsets that are used less and less in favor of personal mobile devices. Part of our mission here at Thinking Phones is to give our customers a mobile UC solution that their users really like to use, while at the same time allowing managers to maintain similar levels of control and visibility to what they had with their old PBX.

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