UX London: Beyond Progressive Enhancement

by May 29, 2014

In her Beyond progressive enhancement presentation at UX London 2014 Stephanie Rieger made the case for connecting technology silos (Web, native apps, NFC) to create more seamless user experiences. Here are my notes from her talk:

  • Almost daily we get new things that are augmented. The results can be magical or disturbing. For example, a self-driving car can enable transportation but collects gigabytes of data at every turn.
  • Many of these are not just smart connected objects, they are systems in of themselves.
  • It's not always obvious how the Web fits into all these systems. The path from Today's Web to apps to things is not seamless.
  • One approach to solving this problem is by making the Web more powerful but is that the only way to tackle this problem?
  • We're not the only industry that is conflicted by new technology. Publishing and music are great examples -they (and us) need to embrace new technologies as they arise.
  • Native software is not going away, we need it to power complex applications. For instance, there is no way for the Web to access Bluetooth information.
  • Native solutions push technology forward much more quickly then Web standards. Even chipsets are innovating faster than Web technologies. We need to be able to take advantage of these new capabilities.
  • At the same time we need the Web for discovery, search, and ad hoc interactions. The Web is the ubiquitous pathway.
  • How do we keep making the Web useful and better? Progressive enhancement. If we try value the ideas behind progressive enhancement, we might want to except that enhancement lives outside the Web.
  • People dip in and out of Web sites and apps throughout the day. Mobile and social have enabled this shift.
  • The choices we make are complex, irrational, and unique. The services we create should embrace this level of complexity. We can't predict exactly the path everyone will take through a service.
  • The jostling for attention between the Web and apps is counterproductive. Its not about Web vs. apps or print vs. digital, it's about leveraging all the technology we have to build conversations and services.
  • We need to evolve the culture around what we refer to as "digital". For example, an electronics retailer in the UK shifted incentives to stop managers from keeping people away from the Web for purchasing.
  • What's really the most important to a company is a happy customer and a sale. All the silos should be working together to achieve that.

Seamless Experiences

  • How do we weave experiences through people's lives in a seamless way?
  • iOS smart banners: prompt users to open apps or download them. This is a native component that knows if you have the app and adapts its call to action to open or download. These are less intrusive and can be improved by allowing them to link into specific content in an app.
  • Custom URI scheme: mechanism that a 3rd party app can be used to communicate with your app. They are supported on any native OS. Check to see if someone has the app and if redirect people to the app's deep page. This takes a fair bit of work to make this work, as they don't degrade gracefully.
  • Android intents allow you to outsource tasks to other apps. They glue app experiences together and enable people to choose the apps they prefer to complete a task. For example, you can set your default Maps app to Google or a different provider.
  • An intent is a combination of an action and a piece of data. Each Android app registers an intent (edit photo, choose images, etc.). From there they are ready accept URLs or other actions. Once the task is complete, you get sent back to the originating app. This enables apps to be stitched together into very personal experiences.
  • Google has implemented a variant of intents that allows people to use the Chrome browser on iOS. But it's very shallow compared to the Android intents platform.
  • Firefox OS supports the Web activities API to enable Web apps to connect to other Web apps like Android intents.
  • NFC is simple but powerful wireless technology that is supported on Android and Blackberry but not iOS. Apple is focused on Bluetooth LE with is complementary.
  • NFC devices operate at very short range (4") and can connected two powered devices or one powered and unpowered one. Once connected two devices can share a URI (to open a browser).
  • Share a dataset: NFC-enabled luggage tags with an e-ink screen. You can share data between the phone and the NFC-enabled luggage tag. Share a context: tap a phone playing a Youtube video to the NFC on your smart TV to start playing it on the big screen. Share large media: send files between two devices. Connect two devices: tap, power up, and connect headphones, for example.
  • This is happening now. The future is here, it's just not equally distributed yet.
  • Our job is to bridge the gaps between technologies to create the right stories for our customers.