A short while ago, I found myself in a familiar situation – a big solution decision in a big company has to be made; technology sets the tone and UX (coming in second…) has to provide a sound reasoning that people understand and relate to.
We’ve all been there before, right?! Development teams are mostly very accurate and quantitative while UX is mostly on the higher planes of essence and seem to require the persuasive skills of a good lawyer to convince the crowd.
The question was – “With our first iPhone mobile application – should we go native or HTML5?”
To sum up the factors affecting the decision in short – big companies, slow by nature, tend to look for quick wins. A HTML5 solution is a quick and easy path to success as it saves time and effort – develop once, apply to many. The UX however, may have different perspectives on this issue such as – native iPhone app uses a “Back” button at the app’s level while Android devices have that button on the device itself, and guess what…users are USED to their devices way before they need to get used to the software (app). There are many other device native interactions which don’t really work with HTML5 well, but the HTML5 vs. native vs. hybrid approach is a good long topic for a separate post.
As a pragmatic, yet philosophical being, I searched extensively for the perfect analogy to help me carry the UX tone safely through the discussion. I was looking for that perfect example which isn’t short-lived, but lasts as part of my vocabulary for the long term; I found it in a surprisingly natural place – the art of Kung-Fu.
Finding associations from seemingly unassociated sources may be the smartest talent for everyone to practice in his and hers day to day life; my greatest call-to-action came from a remarkable book by a remarkable author – Big Think Strategy by Bernd H. Schmitt.
So, to cut a long story short, please take a breather, click on the following link and immerse yourselves in the following pearl of wisdom:
These famous words by probably one of the greatest martial artists ever lived (and apparently a great UX master) where a televised result of notes Bruce Lee wrote to himself while trying to decipher the true meaning of Kung-Fu.
“Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
In these words I found not only the UX perspective to the discussion I mentioned above but also a profound way of looking at design; anything and everything we design has a container – a screen, a devices, a t-shirt, a book cover etc. These physical entities are the conduits between our design and the user. Treat your UX like water!
In the mobile world, users consume our designs through a physical device. They are accustomed to the way it looks, feels and operates as well as to how apps look and work within it. The devices are the “tea pots” and the “water bottles” of the users, leaving us with the awesome power of – water!
1. Become the cup
Treat your UX like water, fitting it into the device in a seamless manner, making use of its native OS functions and its outer button functions. Doing so makes our design more accessible and consumable by the user.
2. Flow and crash
Be cool, innovative, out-of-the-box; once you’re design doesn’t challenge the cup but naturally accommodated within it, your design can attain great heights and your target users are greatly empowered.
Closing the loop on the initial story, the global architecture team made the decision of going native, both on technology and UX and I have a new metaphor that works agnostically across all UI topics, mostly because it’s so perfectly simple to understand but also because not too many people will second guess Bruce Lee (even after he’s gone).
Be water my friends.