Face To Face To Interface: UX for Multiple Viewers

User Experience Design contains an assumption so deep it is almost never articulated: one user interacts with one screen at one time. The persona of that viewer may change. But it’s one person scrolling and clicking by themselves, face to face with an interface, less than a foot from the screen.

But what if there were multiple people interacting with that one lonesome screen at the same time? (And that’s often precisely the case with custom apps.) How would that change the user experience? And how would that, in turn, change the UX Design?

The use cases get interesting. For example, a salesperson armed with an iPad presentation might be meeting with a couple interested in remodeling their home. They are sitting at a dining room table. The dog has decided they need to make friends with this new visitor, and the soup is simmering.

Or a non-profit executive director has grabbed a table in a lunch room with two foundation executives. The foundation executives have some questions. The non profit ED uses her iPad to answer them.

Suddenly, UX is a very different ball game. The screen is portable; it can be used to present material to others and not just locate material for your own use; and the screen is a part of a larger conversation and a larger environment.

Allow for conversation.

When used as a presenting tool, the screen will often play a complementary or even subordinate role to people and the talk — the solicitation of needs, the exploration of options, the asking of questions. Long videos can kill conversation and create awkward silences. Long copy can lead to a situation where reps are reading what should be delivered more extemporaneously.

The best content won’t always be on the screen.

On the web, someone might drill down to get more information. And that might happen here too, but it helps to consider the expertise of the presenter as a part of the content. This allows for flexibility and helps build credibility.

Allow for interaction with the room.

Good UX is always about information gathering. Here, it becomes essential.

Why not use this opportunity to gather information — take measurements, record priorities, build models?

Just as videos can kill conversation, information gathering can deepen the connection between presenter and viewer.

Consciously choose the level of presenter control.

Multi-viewer design for ipad combines traditional UX with Powerpoint best practices, standard sales processes and in-the-moment sales improvisations. Like traditional UX, you will want to provide a choice of pathways, including some parachutes, and a choice of depth of engagement. Like powerpoint, you will want to present a simple path with strong messages. (Remember, the presenter will often be standing to the side of the interface or even behind it.)

You will also want to think hard about how much you want to enforce a given prescribed sales path vs. allowing the presenter to choose their own adventure. This can be delicate and varies by organization. On the one hand, companies want to reinforce best practices. On the other, each presentation presents different demands.

It’s precisely this blend of the standardized and the improvisational, the polished and the conversational, that apps designed for face to face to interface conversations can provide.