The world has passed the mobile tipping point. The number of users visiting sites on mobile each day now exceeds the number on desktop. This is not only an interesting fact, for businesses it’s a mandate. Every company needs to have a positive digital experience on the mobile platform because customers expect it. How can that be achieved?

Principles of the digital experience

Certain principles apply to the design of digital experience no matter where it will live. The digital experience designers must understand the business, the user and customer, and the limitations and possibilities of development and usability

Of these three, the second is the most essential. Designing digital experience is not an inside job where you ask the in-house digital expert and design around what the company wants. A successful experience is built totally around the customer’s demands, needs, preferences and points of pain. The way to find those out is to ask — by getting out of the building and learning the customer’s desires. Take for example, the airline that eliminated baggage information and tracking from their mobile experience in favor of finding and booking flights. Obviously, that was the company’s priority, but asking a few questions would have revealed that customers really wanted baggage tracking information and were frustrated by its absence. The need to understand customers is compounded by the fact that we live in an age of what has been called “liquid expectations,” where customers’ requirements are changing quickly based on their own experiences.

“Every company needs to have a positive digital experience on the mobile platform.”

A concrete objective

The goal in understanding the user or customer is first to define the minimum viable product (MVP). To define the MVP, the designer must know the specific problems of only the people who are most likely to use the platform, not everyone on the planet. Consider the context under which the mobile app will be used, the people using it, and the activities they need to do while on it. While the MVP should only prioritize the most essential features that solve the user’s primary points of pain, it also should incorporate “value innovation” — features that set it apart from the competition. For example, while a lot of dating services already existed, Tinder’s “swipe left or right” feature set it apart and helped it win market share.

The iterative process

Designing the mobile digital experience is a process of: learn, build, measure, repeat. As could be expected, whenever possible the mobile platform should be designed before the desktop platform since it’s easier to add than to subtract. The initial build should be highly iterative since users have trouble delineating their problems, but can usually respond to a proposed solution. Paper and pencil have a very high return on investment to start, and there are also a number of sophisticated wireframe solutions for mobile such as Sketch, InVision and Axure.

Note that designing a digital experience is not a solo job. It takes collaboration with a team and continuous measurement of potential solutions. On top of that, it’s a living experience of continuous improvement. After all, that’s what the customer demands.