Frictionless Mobile Experiences - and Why They Matter to You

JANUARY 14, 2016 // By Russ Miller

We’ve all now heard how important a great mobile user experience is to customers.  But what is a “frictionless” mobile experience?

In the mobile context, “frictionless” means to simplify key elements of the user experience to the point where they’re almost unnoticed, taken for granted—and therefore truly delightful, and ultimately more useful.

Let’s look at a few examples.


Using location-tracking technology Uber knows where you are (you don’t have to supply an address) and the driver closest to you.  This makes getting a cab quickly one button press away—it couldn’t be any simpler.

Then, when your ride is complete, you just walk away.  No fishing for payment or tip, no receipt—no waiting while the cabbie fumbles for their manual credit card imprinter.  Secure.  Awesome!


Amazon launched one-click buying in 2000.  Complex on the backend, but a simple-as-possible customer experience.

Now, with Amazon Dash, Amazon has made buying replenishable items even easier.  You’re out of laundry detergent?  Click a button mounted by your washer and another container of laundry detergent is shortly at your doorstep.  The cost of the Amazon Dash Button is rebated on your first purchase and shipping (with Prime) is free.  With apologies to Staples, this is the “Easy Button”!


Square has something for both retailers and customers.  First, for retailers, Square is a small device that turns any connected smartphone or tablet into a point of sale terminal.  And transaction fees are lower than most competitors.

For customers and retailers alike, Square delights by associating your credit card with your account.  As a result, the retailer now has no need to print a receipt as your receipt will go directly to your email address—and you don’t have to carry a receipt or enter your email address (after the first time).  A very simple transaction for both parties.

Now let’s look at how to create a frictionless experience from another angle:  the learning pattern the experience requires.  Typical mobile experiences tend to be cognitive; that is, the learning pattern requires the user to read basic instructions in order to learn how to use an app.  Frictionless app experiences, however, tend to be perceptional where the learning pattern provides the user just enough information to allow an empathetic engagement where the user can “feel” their way through the experience.  No instructions required.

Here are several more examples from a learning pattern perspective:

Domino’s Pizza iPad App

By using a known, almost pre-prescribed perceptual learning pattern, customers engage and “play” with building the order they want.  Little or no cognitive learning is needed and the experience is almost entirely perceptual.  Customers are engaging in the experience without really knowing it.  The “why” can be understood by Domino’s mission statement: “Sell more pizza, make more fun."  The experience was so well received it got Domino’s a webby. 

Motion Savvy App

Natural user interfaces (NUI) are redefining what “frictionless” experiences can be.  Not only can they provide intuitive engagement patterns that are built on a perceptual learning model, they can take very complex cognitive learning patterns and translate them. The Motionsavvy mobile app uses a NUI to provide a masterful engagement model that will only become more mainstream as a learnable model.  Voice, eye tracking, gesture tracking and location will be the new input devices for these emerging models.  The “Why” is rooted in the source of all of user experience… the right accessibility offered in the best mental model.  Leap, Kinect for Windows, and Myo are all emerging and will redefine how we engage with our devices.

Shyp App

Using a very simple experience the customer becomes part of the process verses just engaging with an app. Simple, direct, and a clever model that plays on the embedded expectations that customers already have with regard to buying and selling on the web.

So, why does all this matter to you?  Because without a conscious focus on creating a frictionless experience pitfalls await.  A few examples:

  • It is all too easy to simply duplicate an experience designed for the web
  • Mobile’s unique hardware capabilities are not well used (e.g., GPS/location services)
  • The mobile ecosystem is not effectively leveraged and you lose opportunities to add value

In short, you risk losing mobile users and that means losing significant business to competitors who are thinking how to create a frictionless experience.

So, how can you make your mobile users’ experience frictionless?  Here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • Simplify registration and authentication.  Use Facebook, Google+ or another service—don’t make users create yet another user account with IDs and passwords they won’t remember.  Use biometric authentication—no one forgets their thumb.  And don’t make a user log in unless they have logged out on purpose (secure apps like financials, healthcare, excepted).
  • Respect users’ time (and lack of patience).  Can data be loaded in the background?  Can important information be shown on one screen instead of two?  Can a transaction be completed with one tap instead of two?  Or better, can you do something valuable for the user without their explicit input (e.g., use location services to fix their location, determine time to get to an appointment, etc.)?
  • Use appropriate learning patterns.  “Intuitive” is overused when describing mobile user experiences.  But what we’re aiming for is an experience that flows (e.g., is perceptional), needs almost no explanations, clearly identifies objectives and makes it easy to perceive how to reach them.
  • Remember.  Remember me and my data so that I don’t have to re-type anything.  If I have to input data, make it easy—for example, accept voice input or a text message (see what /Slash has done to make things easier).
  • Leverage context.  Is the user at home, in a store, at an event or favorite haunt?  If they’re in a store, push information they want like offers or coupons.  If they’re at an event, inform them when friends are nearby.  Anticipate needs and desires.
  • Technical ecosystem.  To make things even more seamless, make sure you take advantage of the users’ technology ecosystem.  For example, a user may have a smartwatch, TV device, tablet, etc.  How can those devices—all with their unique usage contexts—become part of a complete and satisfying experience?
  • Experience ecosystem.  What partnerships with other apps might support your offering of a complete experience?  For example, Spotify partnered with Nike+ and RunKeeper to deliver music while users are exercising.  Sonos, who makes wireless audio systems, partnered with Pandora and Spotify to enable Sonos users to play their music libraries from directly inside the Sonos app.  Less friction, more satisfaction.

And, last of all, pay attention to the user experience through analytics and automated reporting of application issues—there’s always room for improvement.

Magenic’s Mobile Practice and Magenic Studios teams have a great deal of experience and expertise helping our clients create the frictionless mobile experiences users crave—and that will enable you to meet your business objectives successfully.  Let’s discuss how we can help you design and deliver a something amazing!

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out this white paper, Frictionless Business – Using IT to Streamline Operations. If you’d like to contact Magenic directly, email us or call us at 877-277-1044.

Categories // User Experience, Mobile
Tags // Frictionless, Mobile, User Experience, Uber, Amazon, Square, Shyp, Domino's, Motion Savvy

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