Product Teams

How organizations can thrive in the multi-screen era

Like a lot of people, I’ve been watching (read: binging) Apple’s The Morning Show over the last month. And although streaming has been around for awhile (Netflix first announced its streaming offering in 2007) and I’ve streamed plenty of TV shows, this time felt different. 

I started the first episode on an iPad. The next morning, I picked up where I left off on my phone while waiting to board a 6:00 a.m. flight home for Thanksgiving (I’m telling you, this show is addictive). That week, I switched between watching on my laptop, or on a TV if I could claim it before someone else in my family. Since then, I’ve continued this habit, switching between devices as I move from sitting on the subway, to cooking dinner, to relaxing on the couch after work.

The multi-screen era is here

Now, this anecdote wasn’t meant to emphasize how addicted to a TV show I am. My point is that every time I watch The Morning Show via the Apple TV app or website, it feels cohesive. Not only did the platform save my progress (something that’s expected, but not always delivered effectively across streaming services), but the UX was consistent and familiar no matter the device — which only made binging the series that much easier.

This emphasis on the multi-screen product experience isn’t just for consumer-facing companies. In fact, employees expect the software they use for work to be just as user-friendly as the apps they use in their personal lives. But, with more screens comes more expectations.

For users, the multi-screen era means effortless consistency across multiple devices. For those responsible for building these products, it requires an intricate, meticulous process to get it right.

Multiple screens, one experience

There’s a common misconception that optimizing the multi-screen product journey requires separate strategies for each device. In reality (and as I exemplified earlier), most users combine web and mobile usage — so you should be thinking about the two platforms as a single product journey. 

Since it’s not enough to simply design one user interface that will be used on multiple screens, how can companies rise to the occasion in the multi-screen era? 

Step 1: embrace the unknown

Step 2: understand how your customers are actually using your product across web and mobile.

The what, when, and why of product usage

Before you can even think about making any changes to your product to improve the experience across every screen, you first need to know what usage currently looks like. And if you do this by thinking about web and mobile apps separately, you could be missing out on some of your most valuable insights.

To better understand how your customers are using your web and mobile apps, there are a few key questions to ask yourself:

What tasks get completed where?

First determine which features users access on mobile and which they access on web. From there, you can make comparisons (e.g. by tracking clicks, page views, and events) to see where users find success in the product, and where they struggle. For example, you could track the most and least popular features for web vs. mobile, or how daily active users (DAU) and monthly active users (MAU) vary by device.

When do users switch devices?

Since users are constantly switching between web and mobile, it’s valuable to know when this actually happens. By examining the steps users take to accomplish tasks and access features, you can uncover any areas of friction in the product.

Why does device usage vary by account or user?

Once you have a broader sense of product usage, you can dig into usage at the account and user levels. By identifying your mobile and web power users, you’ll see which customers are likely to embrace (or ignore) certain elements of the product. This way, you can connect product decisions to user expectations, and have a better sense of which cross-device behaviors add value.

If you want to dig deeper into optimizing the multi-screen product journey, download our new guide here