Mobile UX in Time — Facts & Insights

Your Approach to Micro Moments as New Key Touchpoints for Business (and Science!)

(Reading Time: 9min | Videos: 25min)

by Robert Matthees > UX > Mobile (2017-04-13)

What do you need to know about Mobile User Experience, Time Perception, and Micro Moments to create great Products with engaging Touchpoints for your Customers?

A micro moment: 2yo baby girl playing with time


Just have a look at the photograph above, and you will see a little hand which belongs to my 2yo daughter, she is playing with my watch. Clearly, she hasn't got any clue about the function of this product (yet) as she is holding it upside down. Even though, there are moments when she feels bored, or excited. And this is something you have to keep in mind: A moment is different from the time that you count on your watch. Because sometimes, time flies, and in another moment 1 minute takes ages. How does this actually happen? And why it's important for understanding Customer Behaviour?

A Moment in Time

Whereas your watch simply counts seconds, you perceive time always in a specific moment of life. In a moment, you are evaluating your options in the light of the situation, your tasks, values, and responsibilities. Influenced by your current psychological + physical condition, you see possible outcomes which you perceive as feelings. Positive feelings motivate you towards an idea. Negative ones push you away from decisions. And as feelings are mixtures of chemicals in your brain which slow down or speed up the activity in certain areas, it affects your time perception too.

Human Life Time
  • 🐣  Lifespan: 79 years
  • 😴  Sleeping: 25 years
  • 🗂  Working: 11.5 years
  • ⏳  Waiting: 5 years
  • 🍽  Eating: 4 years
  • 🍳  Cooking: 2.5 years
  • 💝  Searching in handbags: 76 days
  • 🎯  The present moment: 3 seconds

A Formula 1 racing driver operates with a completely different time perception compared to you at the moment. And did you realise how you speed up your hand the closer it gets to a cup? Now, that's dedication! Patience depends on the urgency of needs.

Let's take one step back to have a look at what actually influences your time perception now. Because as a human you are permanently travelling in time.

The 4 Main Influencers on Time Perception

(Why doesn't your time tick as linear as your watch?)

1) Your Age

The older you are, the faster time flies. Do you remember my daughter from above? It's simple mathematics:

A moment comes up in its relation to the experienced total lifetime. And its proportion gets smaller, the older you are. This helps to understand why a random day seems to appear much longer for a child than an adult. And based solely on age, the factors for time acceleration would look like this: age 5 to 10 (1x), age 10 to 20 (2x), age 20 to 40 (4x), age 40 to 80 (8x).

Of course, this is a quite generic view which doesn't look at individual feelings in a moment of time. But it's a factor that influences our perception of time massively. "Wow, it's already December! This year went so fast." You know these words, don't you?

2) Your Environment

Did you realise that rooms have individual temporalities? Just think about the different rooms in your flat, or house, and realise the differences in your time perception. How does it feel in your kitchen? It's an area designed for a clear task (2.5 years cooking). Surely, it feels differently when sitting in a dining area, and eating the food (4 years). And how about your bedroom (25 years sleeping)?

On the other hand, there are places that come with different moods. Mostly, these are environments with different purposes where your time perception varies by your workload, and your motivation towards it. Think about being at work (11.5 years), or in your garden.

3) Your Workload

Time seems to go faster when you are busy, and slower when you are bored. Imagine, you managed to finish a lot of tasks in just one week. Looking back, your mind will go: "Wow, this was a long week!" It's like you could stretch time just by putting a lot of action in it. On the other hand, you will easily remember moments where it felt the opposite.

4) Your Feelings

The chemicals inside your brain make up what we call feelings. Think about the concentrated, completely zoomed-in Formula 1 racing car driver again, or a jet pilot. They are able to create a state of mind with such a focus that their world literally starts to move in slow motion. And they certainly need it in their job. In some countries, medical drugs supporting this effect are even compensatory for jet pilots when landing on an aircraft carrier. Because here, every little moment counts.

source: Pinterest

When we are really into a situation, and like it, when we feel happy, motivated, and ready, it's a moment of fun, flow, joy, and other nice feelings. I like to call them Good Brain Juice (a term which I learned from Richard Bandler ). It describes a mixture of chemicals in your head which provides you with the right resources, focus, and state of mind — suitable for the moment. This has an effect on specific areas of your brain where all activity will become faster, or slower, depending on how you feel.

Living in Moments

(How do Users Evaluate their Options?)

1) The Cognitive Bias

How you react and feel in certain situations depends on the way of thinking which you learned, and which got conditioned in your head. The Cognitive Bias Model will give you some ideas about it. Because as it illustrates how we store, and recall memories, it contains several hints about possible factors with an influence on your perception of time with regard to your way of thinking:

source: wiki & John Manoogian III

The Bizarreness Effect, for example, describes the tendency of bizarre, funny, visual-striking, and surprising things to be better remembered than common things.

The Levels-of-processing Effect and the Context Effect give the hint that we store memories differently based on how they were experienced.

2) The 'Black Box' Metaphor

Niklas Luhmann invites you to look at the human as a black box that communicates information in the media of sense. It takes in input when it perceives information with relevance to its specific system/intention (otherwise it's just noise). And it sends out information coded accordingly too. For our purpose, we can say, that we can't look inside of such a box. But we perceive its output, and actions, and can guess about the input it takes in as information. Each has its own internal programmes, and mode of operation.

This is the way we actually perceive our peers, and fellow humans, isn't it? Think about being in a supermarket. It's the best behavioural laboratory that I know: You see people around you looking at ingredients (input), and their salvation starts (output) as they are obviously hallucinating already eating the ready meal at home (internal programme).

Actually, for Luhmann, these black boxes are not really humans, but social systems in general (education, politics, religion and so on). But for our purpose, his metaphor helps to illustrate human behaviour, interaction, and decision making. Just listen to this DJ:

He takes in a given input and transforms it into something new by own composition.

This is happening in all decision making processes: Every time when you evaluate your possible options, you take in all relevant information which is available to you in-the-moment, externally (given in the situation), and internally (memories filtered by your cognitive bias). Now, you either justify (yes/no), or postpone a decision when you feel the need for further information which isn't currently available to you.

Imagine, you are considering the purchase of a new car. Would you make such a decision straight away, or would you consider possible alternatives, and ask for somebody's feedback? The higher the perceived decision size, the higher your need for further consideration.

"Mobile has forever changed the way we live, and it's forever changed what we expect of brands. It's fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Each one is a critical opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences." - Google

Interaction in Micro Moments

(How to target the new Key Touchpoints?)

1) A Mobile-First World

Smartphones enable users to access clouds, and communities full of feedback, and information — everywhere, and directly in the moment when it's needed. This speeds up traditional evaluation processes, and decision making massively and offers the possibility for immediate action in many situations. These moments of very short + intentional interactions are called mobile moments.

2) Types of Micro Moments

Google researched many users in real life situations and finds that:

2.1) People evaluate purchase decisions in-the-moment.

"82% of smartphone users turn to their phone to influence a purchase decision while in a store."


Giana justified a higher-priced item while in-store.


Danielle gained confidence in using a new product.

2.2) People solve unexpected problems in-the-moment.

"62% of smartphone users are more likely to take action right away toward solving an unexpected problem or new task because they have a smartphone."


Cathy tackled her to-do before it hit her list.


Ben dealt with a minor crisis across devices.

2.3) People pursue big goals in small moments.

"90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress toward a long term goal or multi-step process while 'out and about.'"


Erica planned for a new home during spare moments.


Marlhon kicked off a career change while on-the-go.

2.4) People try new things in routine moments.

"91% of smartphone users turn to their phone for ideas while doing a given task."


Mabel found a look she loved while getting ready.


Leif called ahead and it paid off.

3) User Expectations

A short look at the typical interaction spans on different devices helps to understand the different character of mobile usage too:

Illustration of Desktop, Tablet, Mobile Interaction

Whereas we use desktop devices mainly task-oriented, the mobile interaction consists of a very large number of short, intent-driven micro moments. Google writes about this User Intention:


"Smartphones allow us to act on any impulse at any time. We take immediate action whenever we want to learn, find, do or buy something."


"When we act on our needs in-the-moment, our expectations are high and our patience is low. This makes the quality, relevance, and usefulness of marketing more important than ever."


"Our preferences and purchases are shaped in these micro-moments. Ultimately, the brands that do the best job of addressing our needs in each moment will win."

4) Winning Micro Moments (in 5 Steps)

4.1) Make a moments map.

"Identify a set of moments you want to win or can't afford to lose. Examine all phases of the consumer journey to map moments when people want to find inspiration, learn about your products, make a quick purchase, or anything in between."

4.2) Understand customer needs in-the-moment.

"For each moment you want to win, put yourself in the consumer's shoes. Ask 'What would make this easier or faster? What content or features would be most helpful for this moment?'"

4.3) Use context to deliver the right experience.

"Leverage contextual signals like location and time of day to deliver experiences and messages that feel tailor-made for the moment. For example, let customers searching nearby your stores know when the products they're looking for are in-stock or available for pickup in-store."

4.4) Optimise across the journey.

"People move seamlessly across screens and channels. Does your brand deliver seamlessly in return? Don't let competing objectives or department silos stand in the way. To account for today's complex, fractured journeys, anchor completely on the consumer and organize around moments."

4.5) Measure every moment that matters.

"You cannot afford to under-serve your customers while you're dealing with measurement gaps. While the return on investment for certain moments may not yet be directly measurable, train your team to use credible estimates to ensure nothing's falling through the cracks."

In short: Offer the right content directly for the current intention of your audience, and assume the feelings, motivation, and the perceived urgency in order to create a suitable pitch with information, and insights (that's why responsive doesn't automatically mean mobile). It's all about relevancy and providing the best help/answers in-the-moment.

5) Impact on Science & Research

Micro Moments affect all areas of our life. It's a generic behaviour change that happened in the light of mobile connectivity. And this makes the outlined approach not just relevant for business strategies, but also for research, and science.

Research & Science are traditionally areas of our life which lived well without very dedicated marketing strategies. But the supply of scientific information skyrockets day by day. This created the need for a Marketing Approach for non-sales content.

What does this mean for your Research Publications? Do the 5 Steps outlined above, and stop publishing your research in just one big piece. Divide it into small pieces, bits of information, written in a nice language, on the point, and easy to understand — suitable for the audience you want to target in specific micro moments. Like this, you will create awareness for your name, and branding for your bigger research project.

It's important to understand that — even in science — your are in competition with many of your peers, and it's not the best idea which will succeed, but the idea which targets its audience best. For best practice, just check how Google presents the Research Study about Micro Moments .


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