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 Chuck SchaefferCRM User Experience Best Practices for Mobile

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Mobile CRM is different than its desktop counterpart. Unfortunately, most mobile CRM adopters fail to recognize that difference, which is why CSO Insights reports that 42 percent of sales people use mobile devices, but 4 out of 5 are only using basic productivity apps such as email, and only 1 in 5 organizations have integrated mobile use cases to their business processes.

In a similar way, creating a satisfying mobile CRM user experience is different than achieving that same goal on the desktop. While user experience planning has some things in common regardless of device ― such as starting with measurable goals, segmenting your audience and identifying their roles, content needs, devices, use cases and CRM software expectations ― different devices require different plans and tactics to achieve not so different user experience objectives.

I've found those differences to be in the areas of design, content, features and analytics, and will use this post to share how each of these elements can improve the mobile CRM user experience.

Design. Mobile CRM isn't a downsized CRM experience as much as it is a more purposeful and specialized experience. The design behind that experience should help the user focus on the one or few things that matter most or support specific use cases. To that end, here are several design tactics that I've found helpful.

  • The two primary mobile structures are hierarchical and hub-and-spoke. Hierarchical structures (aka tree structures) are simple parent-child relationships while hub-and-spoke structures permit navigation from a source page (the hub) to any number of destination pages (spokes). Hierarchy structures are more popular and often better suited for simple mobile apps, however, hub-and-spoke structures can make a lot of sense for CRM applications which need to cut across sales, marketing and service. Your user cases will dictate the best mobile app structure.
  • The golden rule with mobile CRM design is to avoid feature creep. Do not attempt to replicate pages, features and functions in your customer relationship management system to the mobile CRM experience. Such an effort renders the app overly difficult and challenges user adoption. Instead, work with users to find the balance for the smallest list of most used features. According to Gartner, as a rough guide, make a list of desired features for your mobile CRM app and then discard half of them. Similarly, for every feature you introduce into your backlog, one should be removed.
  • Breadcrumb trails improve the user experience for most mobile apps. If used, the breadcrumb labels should be hyperlinks which permit navigation to any of the displayed intermediate pages.
  • CRM views are pervasive in CRM systems but must be scaled down for a mobile CRM user experience. Account, contact, activity, opportunity, case, campaign and similar views are most often displayed in tables with many columns. Because these views are actually previews to large data sets there is a tendency to display as many columns as can fit without horizontal scrolling. This won't work on a mobile device so mobile CRM views should be reduced to one or two columns, or no more than three.
  • Gartner shared some usability research that suggested mobile CRM apps should not use more than three key strokes to get to the desired function. Each additional keystroke reduces the user experience and results in user drop off.

Content. Content may be king, but the kingdom will be a lonely one if not integrated with several design and placement techniques.

  • Content placement requires content prioritization. With very limited smartphone form factors and the navigational inefficiency of scrolling, it is critical to position what's most important first – and preferably on the home page above the fold. A good mobile UI places the most used functions at the start.
  • A mobile best practice is to structure content using an inverted pyramid. This content design mimics news writing whereby the most important information or conclusion is delivered first, and is then followed with supporting details.
  • Because different mobile operating systems display text differently, font control is critical to achieving readability and a consistent user experience across devices. Font placement factors which should be used to improve readability on mobile devices include increased kerning (the horizontal spacing between characters), increased leading (the vertical spacing between lines) and consistent use of either a monospaced font (whereby text occupies a constant amount of horizontal space) or a proportional font (where text spacing is apportioned based on the shape and width of each character). Applying these font control methods will make a noticeable improvement to users.
  • Mobile performance is a critical success factor in the user experience, and the single biggest factor to achieve faster pages is to remove images. If you use images at all, you should use grayscale, monochrome (multiple shades of a single color) or highly optimized (GIF or PNG) images.

Next: More CRM user experience best practices for mobile CRM




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Mobile CRM isn't a downsized CRM experience as much as it's a more purposeful and specialized experience. The design behind that experience should help the user focus on the one or few things that matter most or support specific use cases.


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