Porting Designs Across Platforms Ruins UX

Mobile Device Port

A joint WhatUsersDo and NN/g user research study concluded that porting a UI designed for one device to another harms user experience and should be avoided.

Based on observing how 179 users navigated seven websites on desktop and mobile devices, the research found that people’s usage of menus was higher on mobile devices. At first glance this is counter-intuitive because mobile devices are notoriously difficult to design navigation for.

Navigation usage by task type

There were two types of tasks: those that did not require navigation to be used, those that did require navigation (or search). In both cases Mobile menu usage was higher.

Mobile-first or mobile-last?

However, this behaviour was not because the sites’ designers had “cracked” the challenges of designing for mobile devices. It was that the desktop menu designs were worse.

Why were they worse? Because it appears the desktop menu designs had been ported from the mobile platform: mobile-first seems to mean mobile-first and last for many of the sites tested.

Some of the mobile design patterns ported to desktop included:

  • Hidden navigation such as the  hamburger menu
  • Navigation in the top right corner
  • Search icon instead of search box

iPhone Usage

The research concluded that serving users on multiple platforms needs a multi-platform design strategy, because porting is compromising the experience for one, if not all platforms.

You can read the full Mobile First is NOT Mobile Only article over on the NN/g site.

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Lee Duddell

Lee Duddell is the founder of WhatUsersDo.

During 20+ years of working in digital, Lee became increasingly frustrated with the amateurish way that companies were making important design decisions. Personal opinions, hunches and incomplete data were driving experience design. And not user insight.

Lee started WhatUsersDo to fix this by making user research and UX Testing business as usual.

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