Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about the concept of lean-forward versus lean-back experience. The idea seems to have originated with Jakob Nielson. The basic premise is that there are two main types of user experience:
Leaning Forward – Imagine a person at their desk, working on a document.
Leaning Backward – Imagine a person on the couch watching their favorite movie.
When it comes to television, the experience is almost always lean-back, and when it comes to computers, the experience is more likely to be lean-forward. That leaves us with the question of where tablets and smartphones fit in.
Tablets are created for content consumption. People watch videos, read books, and catch the news on their tablets. These are all lean-back experiences. That’s not to say that you won’t find people working on documents, taking notes, or even playing AngryBirds on a tablet. It’s just not as likely.
Phones are usually lean-forward devices. People use phones to check their email, look up an address, or bring up a map. While some users watch videos or listen to music on their phones, the primary use of a phone is an active, lean-forward experience. So when you’re creating your app, here are a few things to consider:
- Keep the user active. Make sure that they need to get their hands on the screen or do something frequently.
- The less typing is involved, the better. There should be a lot of touch, but not a lot of text.
- The app should respond to the user’s actions. Response is reward.
- Unless your app is a video app, keep videos short and to the point.
- Likewise, unless your app is all about the written content, don’t put too much writing on the screen.
Keep the user leaning in, and they’re more likely to spend more time on your app, and more likely to come back.
Picture by FredCamino on Flickr