Understanding Mobile User Experience: the 3 Modes of Mobile Usage

Do you want your mobile project to succeed?

Whether it’s a mobile website, a mobile application, a mobile game or
any combination of these, the success of your mobile initiative relies
on how people use it.

People are busy, their attention is in demand and they have existing
patterns of behavior that your mobile project has to co-exist with.

It makes sense to understand those patterns of behavior and to build
your mobile strategy with that understanding – to work with existing
behaviors instead of trying to invent new ones.

So what are those existing behaviors?

3 Modes of Mobile User Experience

In statistics, the mode is the “[value occurring most frequently in a
series of observations or statistical data.][]”

Modes are a more precise way of describing the existing behaviours of

Our friends at Google analyzed their mobile users and came up with a
strategy to help guide its mobile web and app development strategy.

The basis of their guidance is that mobile users fall into 3 main
patterns of behavior with the following names:

  1. Repetitive Now
  2. Bored Now
  3. Urgent Now

To succeed with your mobile project you need to figure out which of
these 3 describes how your users will use your product.

Threadless appealing to Repetitive Now users

1. Repetitive Now

Repetitive Now users are seeking recurring real-time information. They
use their mobile device to stay in touch with ongoing, repetitive

Repetitive Now users can be looking for updates on sports scores,
checking the weather and finding the latest stock quotes.  These users
are repeatedly snacking on snippets of information, then, once
satisfied, they leave.

Repetitive Now users often seek the same type information – like  sports
scores – but for a new date or  game. Yet the pattern remains the same.
They want their information and not much else while they’re in the
Repetitive Now mode.

In a mobile commerce context, Repetitive Now usage can be seen in
customers seeking the lowest prices or items going on sale.

Retailers can appeal to Repetitive Now users by creating an easily
accessible sale section, or by creating pricing or inventory alerts,
like many daily deals sites.

Retailers can also begin to create habits that align with Repetitive Now
usage by releasing new products on the same day every week or the same
time every day.

2. Bored Now

Bored Now usage is often a by-product of waiting and seeking
distraction, entertainment or connection through a mobile device.

Ride public transit and you’ll often see everyone on the bus, train or
subway engrossed in their mobile device. Sit in the waiting room at the
dentists’ office and you’ll see the same. Go the coffee shop and watch
people waiting in line for less that a minute – they often get out their
mobile to see their messages, search for something on their mind or
notice a new update to a social network.

Bored Now usage springs from users having time to pass and feeling like
they could be doing something else more interesting in a digital world
than they are doing in the physical world..

Bored Now usage can be valuable for mobile commerce because it’s often
when people discover new products or follow up on any stage of the
purchase process – they’re looking to fill time and shopping has become
a popular way to do so.

But Bored Now users can also be difficult to capture because they are
engaged with personal pursuits like Facebook or productivity like email.

Understanding how your customers see your offering is key to
understanding your opportunity to connect with them when they’re in the
Bored Now mode.

3. Urgent Now

The third category of mobile usage is Urgent Now and its name perfectly
describes the sensibility of people in this mode – I need it now!

In this mode, people are seeking urgent information on their mobile
device. The information is often to address a time or location-sensitive
need, such as the next show time for a movie, nearby Italian
restaurants, trustworthy reviews on a bar, or a tow truck provider.

People in the Urgent Now mode are making snap decisions around
credibility, accuracy and relevance because they feel they have to.

Mobile commerce businesses with a great deal of time-based business
driven by urgency like florists and chocolate shops on Valentine’s Day,
restaurants at dinner time, holiday season gift shops and toy stores,
butchers at Thanksgiving need to particularly understand the Urgent Now
customer because they can be fickle, judgemental, impatient and

As a reward, Urgent Now users are very often ready to make decisions and
act quickly. A well-designed and intuitive mobile experience can convert
people very effectively.

Key Takeaways

How does your customer use the mobile experience you’re presenting to

Start from the 3 modes of mobile user experience and you’ll have a head
start at succeeding with your mobile project.  Think about how each type
of user will use your site.

The alternative is painful. Without being able to answer the question of
what mode of mobile user experience matches your customers’ needs (and
it could be more than one for a larger project), it’s unlikely your
customers will fit your mobile experience into their existing behaviors.

And if you need help figuring it out – talk to us.

Get Mobify working on your mobile project.

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