Techniques for multi-platform user experience

28 Oct 2009 - 6:25am
6 years ago
9 replies
3106 reads
Marek Pawlowski

I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who'd like to share a
view on multi-platform user experiences.

In particular, what are some of the best examples where several
digital platforms (e.g. mobile phone, PC & TV) have been combined
into a single, cohesive customer journey?

How can these different platforms be woven together to create
something greater than the sum of its parts?

What role will mobile and wireless technologies play in 'gluing'
together the different elements?

I've been researching this area for a while and have tried to
distill my current thinking into a 14 point Manifesto
(, which we'll be debating
at MEX in London in a few weeks, but I'm conscious this is still a
very young topic and would like to get some discussion going.


28 Oct 2009 - 11:43am
Guillermo Torres

Hi Marek,

Thanks for reaching out on this topic. I have been doing a lot of research on this for a while. As UX Designers our tools are mostly geared for one experience on one platform, but I have been trying to see what people are doing when that experience goes from one platform to another.

I made a presentation on this subject at UXAustralia, you can find the slides here: Unfortunately, there is no sound.

Here at Adobe, we've been trying to help ease the design and development of this type of experiences. Ali Ivmark, our design manager, has also done a lot of great work on the subject, here is the presentation she gave at MAX last year.:

here is another great presentation on the subject:

And this is a link to the Open Screen Project:

A reason why we have been calling it multi-target instead of multi-platform is because just as a mobile to PC experience is a common exeperience, so is an experience with a website component, and a desktop app component, as well as facebook app. All of which present a different set of constraints.

Guillermo Torres, Sr. User Experience Designer. Adobe

28 Oct 2009 - 11:15am

In this video, Eric Schmidt discusses some things that kind of relate
to your manifesto,

* Cloud
* Convergence
* Multi-tasking
* Distribution distinction

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28 Oct 2009 - 9:06pm
Lynn Marentette

Thanks for the links to the manifesto and the Adobe Open Screen

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29 Oct 2009 - 3:10am
Marek Pawlowski

Thanks for the responses to this.

Picking up on poomoo's link to the Eric Schmidt video, I thought his
observation about teenagers who move 'seamlessly from app to app'
was quite interesting.

This is one of the key things we've been looking at for the MEX
Manifesto and Conference: is the human mind really capable of genuine
multi-tasking, or would it be better to describe this kind of
behaviour as a state of 'continuous partial attention'. If you
think about what your brain is doing when you're trying to
simultaneously talk to someone, read your email and watch TV, you are
never actually fully engaged in any of those tasks. Instead, you swap
between them very quickly, bringing each one into your primary
attention zone, sometimes just for a fraction of a second, and then
focusing back on the other tasks you're trying to juggle.

That kind of cognitive state has some big implications for
multi-platform user experience design - practitioners need to be
creating interfaces which take account of reduced attention spans and
allow us to easily swap back and forth between multiple points of

Very much enjoyed Guillermo and Aynne's presentation on
'multi-target' experiences. If you were having having difficulty
accessing the link Guillermo posted, try this one (the original link
seemed to have a period attached to end which broke the URL):

Initiatives link the Open Screen Project are going to play a
significant role in forming the technological underpinnings of
multi-platform experiences. I think true progress will be made once
these kind of UI layer enhancements are combined with innovations in
the information delivery infrastructure (the increased bandwidth
highlighted by Eric Schmidt in the video) and improvements in things
like smart caching and dynamic transposing.

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3 Nov 2009 - 10:59am
Gregor Kiddie

And sadly, this ability is probably going to get the BBC canned once the
Tories come into power. News International has "persuaded" the Tories
that this sort of experience is damaging to "traditional" media


On topic, the BBC is the best example of this sort of joined up thinking
across media. Their news portal (it's not really a site is it) works
just as well alongside the iPlayer, and the "red button" support on
Digital TV links into the same well of content.

They excel at presenting the information they have in every format


Gregor Kiddie
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-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at
[mailto:discuss-bounces at] On Behalf Of
Chris Collingridge
Sent: 03 November 2009 07:42
To: discuss at
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Techniques for multi-platform user

The organisation that leaps out at me in this regard - and one you're
no doubt aware of if you're in London - is the BBC.

Over the past few years the BBC have taken lots of steps to provide a
joined up experience between TV, Radio, PC/standard web, and mobile -
on a whole host of different levels.

The iPlayer (on-demand TV) on both PC and on mobile is a great
example of this - showing content from the TV and radio, promoted on
both platforms, distinct (but still BBC-y) website and associated TV
app, mobile-targetted app that takes into account screen resolution &
connection speed etc..

Indeed, if you had told me 5 years ago that I would actually watch a
TV programme on my phone, I would have laughed you out of town. But
now I do - if it happens to suit (even in my own house).

They do still have some work to do (their website detects you're on
a phone, but obviously not very reliably: I get a cut-down version of
the site which I neither want nor need), and they clearly have
resources that most people don't, but I think they're a great

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3 Nov 2009 - 4:51pm
Marek Pawlowski

Thanks for the observations re: the BBC. The Beeb - and Apple - came
up most frequently in our early research on the topic as examples of
good multi-platform experience.

I'd certainly be in agreement that the BBC has made its content
available through a wide range of platforms. However, I wonder how
much further it can go to combine those platforms into something
which taps into their unique capabilities?

It strikes me the BBC's multi-platform story is currently dominated
by a desire to present content appropriately for each platform.
That's a great starting point, but I think the truly special
multi-platform experiences will come when they're able to derive a
unique new feature from the combination of two or more platforms, not
just reformat.

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4 Nov 2009 - 6:22pm
Kai En Ong

Interesting discussion. My 2pence from knowledge of one of the
organisations mentioned, the BBC.

I remember a while back, content was adapted and created specifically
for each different platform, but aimed to tell the story/extend the
narrative/involve the audience pan-platform across the same theme.
This didn't always lead to what felt like a completely seamless
experience, but in terms of the commission, may have been a good fit.

In the days pre-iPlayer, when take-up of broadband was smaller,
mobile experiences were less joyous, and the ongoing public service
remit to reach the less digitally enabled (not going away), there
still were lots of usually smaller, quite bespoke efforts going on
that were beyond re-formatting. I believe this has created pockets of
experience and skill within the business in this area.

Although I'm not close to the commissioning process, it's hugely
influential. And if you really want to know, you can read about it
online on the BBC site

On a slightly different note: I must apologise, as I didn't have
time to check the referenced reading, but a few things occur to me
reading through these comments. In terms of
multi-target/multi-platform, I think both concurrent activities,
consecutive activities (over time), and similar experiences that can
be had on a range of platforms according to time and place are all
mentioned here. And designing for these is different, although for
simplicity, I'd still refer to them under the big banner of
"multi-platform". Until something else catchier comes along ;-)

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5 Nov 2009 - 4:05am
Marek Pawlowski

Thanks for your thoughts on this Kai, interesting to get an insight
into how organisational structure at somewhere like the BBC can have
an influence on the end user experience. It must be a real challenge
to balance the creative benefits of encouraging independent pockets of
experimentation versus the overall goal of providing a somewhat
unified experience.

Something we've seen in our cross-industry research is that
companies often end up delivering services across a huge range of
platforms because these efforts grow from individual organisational
silos. It takes a lot of foresight for a company to build a modular
service architecture from the outset and, even then, there is no
guarantee they won't end up sacrificing their creativity in their
efforts to maintain a central vision.

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