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Some of the best received mobile applications seem to be those that work harmoniously with the native platform (for example, an app that sticks to the metro guidelines, for Windows Phone); however I could see that using the same user experience across all platforms could aid customers may make an app easier to use.

Are there any metrics or existing research that show whether applications are better received when they follow the conventions of the platform, compared to when they're consistent with the brand across all platforms?

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Context. Context. Context. Platform then brand. Platform then brand. Platform then brand. It's not as if the user's experience comes only from platform or only from brand... –  Roger Attrill Feb 16 '12 at 20:51
    
There are few exceptions to this rule. For instance most games create their own UI style. –  JeroenEijkhof Jun 28 '12 at 0:26
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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

For almost all brands, it's not an either/or choice. Instead, when adapting your brand to a new platform, try to understand the platform's look and feel and adapt your brand's look and feel to it.

Luckily, the things that matter most in branding (e.g. logos, color scheme, graphics, and visual layout) tend to be things that platforms give developers lots of latitude to define. Don't feel you have to compromise on those things. But when designing buttons, navigation, and other lower-level UX elements that platforms tend to specify, try to align with the platform standards.

As the other posters mention, in the rare case that platform and brand conflict, go with the platform. Otherwise you end up with apps like ITunes on Windows and other platform-hostile apps which confuse users. If users don't like using your software, it won't help your brand!

There are some (very rare) cases where breaking with platform conventions are OK. If you do this, just make sure you're doing it in a smart way, where "smart" means it won't get your app booted from your platform's app store and you don't do it any more than is critical for your brand. For example, on Android almost all apps use sans-serif fonts for readable text. But the New York Times's serif font is so much a part of its brand that its apps will always use a serif font, even if that results in less-readable text. But even Times apps limit serif fonts to news article content. Other text (on buttons, headings, etc.) is the platform default.

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You will need to be consistent with the platform for the simple reason that certain app stores like that of Microsoft will not even allow your app to be published if it doesn't follow the Metro UI guidelines.

That said, another reason for making it platform-consistent is that people expect apps to behave in a certain way in certain platforms and have associated certain actions or responses with a specific object in a platform (for example the use of live tiles in Windows Phone 7 to highlight key features or news or the use of Pivots as menu options in Windows Phone).

If you deviate from them, and if your user is only used to that platform, he or she might get pretty confused.

Edit: I was under the impression that Apple is very rigid about the design guidelines but looking at the examples (in the comments below), apparently that is not the case.

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Not entirely sure that's true. There's HIG guidelines for iOS, but lots of apps bend the rules all over the place. –  DA01 Feb 16 '12 at 20:53
    
@DA01 ,I guess I might be wrong but doesnt Apple enforce strict guidelines on how the apps should be designed to ensure compatibility and uniformity. –  Mervin Johnsingh Feb 16 '12 at 20:56
    
Not that I know of. –  DA01 Feb 16 '12 at 21:02
    
Even if the company behind the platform allows for non standard applications, doesn't it make sense to conform to the platform as against brand? The branding is usually not generated keeping usability on mobile devices in mind. I am not saying one should always be trapped in the platform guidelines when designing but breaking them for branding doesn't seem like a good idea; breaking them for better design might be alright. –  Viraj Feb 16 '12 at 22:04
    
It depends on all sorts of variables. There's no one right or wrong answer. –  DA01 Feb 16 '12 at 22:52
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First of all, are we talking web apps, or native apps? They are different beasts and should be treated differently. With a web app, you're designing something more universal, so you want to use web and mobile standards, but not necessarily a specific platform's standards.

With a native app, that's different, as you will likely be developing the app per-platform.

In terms of 'using the same UX across platforms to make it easier for users' there's some validity in that, but note that most users--especially mobile, aren't going to be using multiple platforms. So that argument may be moot.

It can certainly help support the apps, if your support staff only have to deal with one UX.

Assuming you will be building apps per platform, it's certainly a good idea to adhere to that platforms human factor guidelines whenever possible, but that doesn't mean branding can't have its say and trump it at times. There's no one answer to this, as it's going to depend on too many variables.

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Answer: Platform over branding.

While this is not a metric or an existing research, it might be helpful to do the following couple of things.

  1. Create two versions of the home page (Or any other important page) wireframe. One based on the platform guidelines and the other other based on the brand. Do a quick heuristic evaluation or usability testing. You will know the answer to your question.
  2. Take the top 50 apps on any platform and see how many of them deviate from the platform guidelines and defer to the brand guidelines. Quick and dirty comparative research.
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You mention home page...if we're talking a web-based app, you're not going to want to do anything platform centric, since it's a web app and (ideally) platform agnostic. #2 is interesting, but not sure how telling it'd be, as context is everything and apps vary so broadly in terms of tasks, demographics, etc. –  DA01 Feb 16 '12 at 23:02
    
I agree, apps do vary. I also agree, home page is not the right terminology for native apps, but basically I was suggesting mocking up an important screen using both platform and brand guidelines. I will edit my post above. Thanks :) +1 for calling out the web app vs native app thing.. Good point there. –  Viraj Feb 16 '12 at 23:21
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