An Event Apart: “Unified Design”

Cameron Moll speaking at An Event Apart Orlando 2016 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World on October 5, 2016.

With multi-screen use progressively increasing among web users, creating a unified user experience across screens is imperative to our work. Responsive Web Design laid the foundation for designing multi-screen UX within the browser, and Unified UX aims to build on that foundation by unifying the entire internet experience—browser or not. This session examines what’s required to deliver a unified, consistent user experience regardless of where the digital experience begins, continues, and ends. You’ll learn how to unite your entire internet presence, not just your web presence, and you’ll take away practical advice for creating unified user experiences and fostering a mindset of unity among your organization.


  • Intuition: The degree to which users successfully navigate new, unfamiliar experiences based on knowledge acquired in previous experiences
  • Kevin Spacey speaking at Edinburgh TV Festival
  • The best interface is the one within reach
  • We all have and will make stupid mistakes
  • 49% of multi-screen users email themselves a link for continuing an activity on another device — Source: Google
  • Is “mobile” a noun or a verb or an adjective?
  • The nouns, verbs, and adjectives of all screens are converging
  • Your audience wants unified experiences—All you have to do is give it to them
  • We expect mobile version to have all the functionality of the desktop
  • Unified design — Crafting a unified, cohesive experience regardless of where the experience begins, continues, and ends
    • We are talking about unity, not uniformity
  • 2 important facets when talking about unified design
    1. Form and function
    2. Data symmetry — Data shared across devices
  • Best practices
    1. Unify your internet presence, not just your web presence
    2. Treat every facet of the user experience as a contributor to unity
      • If we are unsuccessful in getting buy in, then it’s not going to happen
      • Branding is the origin of unity but it is not enough
      • Branding is autocratic, unified design is duocratic
    3. Consider using “web views” when developing your native app
    4. Unify actions, not just content
      • “Sync verbs, not just nouns.” — Josh Clark
    5. Store session data in the cloud, not locally
    6. Replace “click” with “tap” and “mobile” with “small” (or other terms of your choosing)
      • Click doesn’t make sense unless you are using a mouse, and the definition of mobile is blurred now
      • Name PSD screen sizes after Jackson five to reinforce the idea of removing sizing silos
    7. Eliminate big screen bloat
      • For some sites, things are actually harder to get to on desktop
    8. Product unity? Platform unity? Both are important
    9. Progressive web apps seem pretty legit (So far)
      • “The success of the web, as we know it today, is largely due to one piece of software: the browser. I can access nearly any website, application (including email) … with that one browser. To assume users will be satisfied downloading an [app] for every site they frequent, or for every content provider they associate themselves with, is to assume users have adequate storage space on their devices and that they are willing to pay the costs, both data and time, to download these apps. In all likelihood, most users will probably download an app for a couple of their favorite products, but beyond that, a browser will be — or should be — sufficient for interacting with web content.” — Cameron Moll, Mobile Web Design, 2007
      • People are now downloading fewer native apps, opting for websites instead
      • Progressive web apps — Inherently unified. No native app, m-dot URL, or separate database. It just works. In theory.
    10. The goal is unity not uniformity
  • The best interface is the one within reach — The best user experience assumes every interface is the one within reach
  • All we have to do is give it to them

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