Degrees of Engagement

Everyday we engage with three major platforms: web, phones, and tablets. Something I have noticed is the different way a user engages with each one of them and I started to relating them to different places.

Sitting at your computer, or with your computer in your lap. You are usually browsing the web for one thing or another. A computer takes time for you to open up, wait for it (even if it’s fast) to show, open a browser, type in your site, or google, etc. So your engagement time for this is much longer, because the user has already made the commitment to get setup and settle in.

Your phone is a personal device, it’s a smaller screen that relies on glances instead of long engagement. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule here, like sitting in line at the DMV or something, but mostly it’s a short time period for engagement.

Your tablets, well, they are unique, they can float between the web and phones. But I tend to think of them like very personal devices, that don’t take any commitment, but can still pull some heavy engagement from a user. While also making it “ok” for the user to break engagement to do other things.

Thinking and watching how people engage with the apps, many comparisons can be made and many have. With my recent focus on commerce, the comparisions I have made are based off of different places people go to shop.

With the web, the association is the easiest. A Mall is a big place with lots of stores and lots of things to do, see, eat, and so on. You have a clear plan of what you want, but you always tend to stray from that path to look at other things. The mall requires a commitment from customers. You have walk to the entrance, then walk to your store or stores, while avoiding the people in the middle that are advertising and trying to get you to try their wares. So you allow yourself more time for your visit and even, at times, mentally prepare.

The tablet falls in a bit more of a grey area for me, and to be honest, was hard for me make a clear association. I chose local Farmers’ market because it’s a more personal experience, not big chain stores and disgruntled employees. And though it has a lot of options or ‘stands’ to chose from, it feels more open, making it easier for you to clearly see where you want to go. You may stop by other stands a long the way, so you can take your time and look, or move straight to your endpoint.

And finally, the phone. This was actually the easiest for me to find an association. A street vendor. Though with street vendors, you can stand there and shop everything they have for hours, they are primarly perfect for the impulse buy. You walk up, point to your favorite fake rolex, throw down some cash and you are done. The commitment is minimal, in fact, a lot of times there is no commitment. It’s a fast interaction, and then it’s over. You either got something or you didn’t. And once the interaction is over, you keep moving down the same path, no real interruption to where you are headed.

When I think of how a user will interact with each of these devices, I try to think of, not only the user’s mindset, but where that user will be, and what they are doing when they use the app, and how I should, or should not, interfere with what they already had planned.

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