Part 3 in an ongoing series on the mobile platform & privacy

By Janet Jaiswal
Director of Enterprise BU


Screenshot of Facebook’s iPhone app

There is very little doubt in anyone’s mind that the iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry and has forced the hands of everyone – from handset manufacturers and carriers to application developers – to be more creative and innovative in order to stay in the game. Another advantage Apple has is that it requires its developers to follow its human interface guidelines. These guidelines help mobile apps conform to good design principles. These design principles are so popular that more and more mobile apps and mobile web developers are following these guidelines regardless of whether they are on the Apple store, which contributes to the continuing appeal of the mobile device.

Tasks performed on mobile devices tend to be tactical in nature. Your users have a very specific need and they want to accomplish their goal in the easiest and fastest way possible. Best user interface design principles include:

  • Compact screen size requires a minimal feature set optimized for common use cases
  • Fonts and font sizes are used to show hierarchy and importance
  • The ability to only see one screen at a time means features must be progressively displayed
  • Large buttons are used to make interactions actionable
  • The commonality of the mobile form factor means users expect adherence to mobile design conventions – interactions should be conventional and consistent
  • Limited content real estate means help text creates unnecessary clutter – the interface should be simple and intuitive so that the user needs little instruction

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Mobile Web Initiative has created mobile web best practices to help companies follow best practices for delivering web content to mobile devices. These guidelines are just a start. You need to do more if you want your mobile app and/or website to continue to attract engaged users.

What can a company do when a user is presented with dozens, if not hundreds of similar, competing mobile applications? How can a company help a mobile app user feel comfortable sharing their location information with the app? How can you help users trust mobile forms that require them to share information such as their name, password, email or physical address? How can you help users trust mobile platforms linked to their financial accounts?

A study by TNS Global Market Research of more than 1,000 users in December 2009 revealed that more than 75% of users look for the presence of a privacy policy when giving personal information on a website. By following good mobile privacy policy design principles, you help your users feel more comfortable sharing their information on your mobile website or application.

Design principles can be applied by anticipating user reaction to each step they perform when interacting with your website or mobile app. Ensure that each step in the process is easy, intuitive and works to alleviate any concern that may arise. For example, when a user first downloads an application such as Loopt, Foursquare or Gowalla, place a link to the Terms of Service (TOS) and privacy policy in a visible location so your users can quickly obtain answers to their question and move to the next step. The same applies for forms that require users to submit personal information.

The privacy policy and TOS are frequently overlooked by users because of their length or subject matter. However, the information contained in these documents can reassure users who may have questions or concerns so they feel more confident interacting with your app or mobile web site. The same best practice principle of progressively displaying features within the application or web can also be applied to these documents. By reducing the time a user has to spend reading and understanding the information in these documents, they are able to quickly get back to interacting with your app or continue the process of submitting their information and moving on to the next step. Note: not following these principles could mean that the user fails to complete the registration process out of fear, confusion or frustration.

Some helpful tips to consider:

  • Use icons for each major section to help users to quickly identify the key components of your privacy policy. The icons should be relevant to each component and not be selected for the sake of providing a graphical icon. Lastly, the icons should be large enough to make interactions easier on a small device.
  • Display content in a progressive manner to allow users to obtain answers to their questions more quickly. The first screen can contain a summary of the key components of your privacy policy. Often that summary is enough to satisfy a user’s concern or address their question.
  • If the user wants to view additional information, they should also be able to access the detailed, full length privacy policy through the summary page.

Once you incorporate these design principles into your app or website you should see greater form completion percentages, high levels of interaction and an increase in user trust. TRUSTe looks forward to sharing innovations we’ve pioneered in this area very shortly.


How you can apply good design principles to your apps or mobile website?

What other design principles do you use?


My next blog will discuss if and when a company needs a mobile app (in addition to a mobile website).


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