Designing for Multiscreen — Put the user at the centre (3/6)

The 3rd one of 6 things you should consider when developing strategies for digital services across multiple screens

Wolfram Nagel
7 min readAug 4, 2014

More and more people are using more and more screens. Users expect to access information on all relevant screens. Thus digital services require a holistic strategy.

Together with Pascal Raabe, from the UI/UX studio ustwo™ I’m going to introduce six practical tips (in an article series) that can help you improve your own digital products and services by employing an effective multiscreen strategy.


  1. Think multiscreen
  2. Know your screens
  3. Put the user at the centre
  4. Context is King
  5. Multiscreen-ready layout and content
  6. Challenges are chances

This is the third article. The other articles will follow on a two-weekly basis. (Note: This article has been slightly updated since its first publication, based on recent developments and insights.)

3) Put The User at the Centre!

Know your target audience. Who are the most important users, what devices do they use and why? What are their goals and needs?

Know your users and their routine.

In order to make digital applications support your users’ daily routine, rather than dominate it, you should consider behavioural patterns early on in the process. Keep in mind that, when you’re creating concepts and interfaces for multiple screens, in actual fact you’re creating a service for humans.

It’s important to know as much about your target audience as you can. It’s very useful to understand your users, their environment and their needs and goals. Who are your most common users and what are the devices they use? What does a day in the life of your typical user look like? What are the relevant touch points, ie. what device are they using when and what for?

In order to make the initial process of defining your target audience easier, it helps to look at user personas based on archetypes. We have developed eight representative archetypal personas of today’s digital society (linked source is in German) in the western world based on the population in Germany. These archetypes could of course be extended and adapted to other countries and cultures. The digital society comprises of all people, from the completely networked multiscreener to the digital outsider.

The digital society comprises of all people, from the completely networked multiscreener to the digital outsider. The user types are based on a study of »Initiative D21«

Using qualitative research you should identify the relevant users, their goals and particularly their use of media in order to prioritise the devices your service needs to cater for. Having developed personas from this research it also makes it easier to recruit relevant test subjects for user testing further down the line.

Looking at the daily routine helps to surface important insights about the user. You will realise how important the context of use is and what devices are at all available at particular times.

What task is a user trying to perform, what is their goal and their motivation? How long does it take, how does the user feel and what mood are they in? Where are they, are there other people or are they alone? What is the technological environment?

A touchpoint matrix is a detailed version of a user journey map illustrating the daily routine of a user. It visualises and describes the everyday interaction with a service (service experience) and the use of media. The matrix shows an overview of typical activities, places and environments, the most likely needs, utilised media and device touchpoints over the course of a day. It covers the three most important factors: Device, user and context. The matrix is a good tool to study and analyse users and to understand the daily routine of user personas. → compare »Touchpoint Matrix«

Exemplary Touchpoint Matrix (typical daily routine with user needs, touchpoints, device and media usage) for Larry Newton (Digital Avantgarde)

Psychology and UX Design

Insights from neuropsychology and neuromarketing are useful for UX design practice. In general people’s needs and goals are varied. This means the needs and goals of our user personas which are modeled on the whole digital society are also varied accordingly. We can illustrate this using emotion maps, a model that uses current findings from the fields of brain research and psychology.

User needs and goals are a central aspect of the user experience. UX Design is not just about creating usable products but also about fulfilling human needs when using them.

People tend to form interaction patterns and mental models at the first contact with a service. It’s often hard to predict which device the first contact will be on. That’s why you should consider the consistency between the interfaces across different platforms and make sure that the interaction is similar and logical in order to provide a fluid user experience across multiple screens.

There are tried and tested principles that you can utilise to address your users’ needs and goals and add value to your digital product or service.


Social networking and creating communities can make an information service more appealing. It may also make sense to integrate existing social platforms into your service. Social involvement, user generated content, comments, personal recommendations and reviews can give your content a higher, personal and sometimes subjective quality. If users have direct influence on your content, your offering will be more tailored to their needs and they may use it more frequently.

Social networking can make a service more attractive to its users. They can create, share, assess, and comment on contents.

If you choose to make use of this effect be prepared to sacrifice total control over your content and embrace the input of the community, which is often unpredictable and hard to plan in advance. Beware of some legal risks, potential quality losses and Internet trolls.


The difference between work and play is motivation. Playing is voluntary. A play factor can motivate people if it’s fun, challenging, projects a relevant goal, and if the user is free to decide. It can make sense to use a gaming approach for your information service or app. There are four important aspects to consider: a gaming approach should be entertaining, competitive, visual, and rewarding.

Game mechanics simulate a competition. A game factor can motivate if it is challenging and sets a relevant goal.

Often, however, gamification lacks three important ingredients: Challenge, Relevancy and Autonomy. As Deterding (who?) says: “For a genuine gaming experience, instead of progress wars create exciting challenges with a relevant narrative and freedom for play. Pay attention to the side effects and social context.”


Telling the story of a product or a information service across different media can allow you to create a unified and consistent cross-device experience. This is not about sweating the details or about spreading the same story across different channels. It’s about the big picture, making sure that content is complementary and that all device touchpoints and interactions with a product form a coherent user experience.

With a story, you can create an engaging cross-device user experience and increase understanding of the product.

You can tell stories in a number of ways across different screens, channels and media. For example a movie or TV series can tell the story not only through the film itself but also through accompanying comic books or video games — each with varying degrees of depth and different focus depending on the target audience, device, and context of use. There’s never only one source providing a complete picture of the film or subject.


Services are emotionally more attractive if they’re fun and support a device fragmented daily routine. It’s just brilliant when information is available on all devices without having to worry about synchronisation. Information should simply be available wherever and whenever you need it.

Services are emotionally more appealing if they are fun, support a device-fragmented daily routine, and adapt to and meet a user’s needs.

If an information service provides added value across different devices and touchpoints and information is easily and reliably available wherever it is needed then there is is a higher chance that the user can identify with the service and enjoys using it in the long-term and across different devices. Other means of increasing this emotional connection between the us and the service could be game elements and social components.

In any case it makes sense to define your user archetypes. In order to do this you can use existing information about potential users, create personas or work with representative user archetypes. Keep in mind, however, that they are no recipe for success and always question their appropriateness.

User-centred design requires collaboration. Everyone involved, including the upper management levels need to buy into the process. Decisions can only be made by the team and not dictated from above.


Stay tuned for the fourth article, because Context is kingAny questions? Just send me an e-mail.


With the Multiscreen Experience Project we gathered and developed a number of patterns, methodologies, and insights and compiled them in a book. In this article series I introduce the most important aspects of a useful and user-friendly multiscreen offering.

Update (12/14/2015): If you’re more interested in the topic. My new English book “Multiscreen UX Design” is available sind 14th December 2015.

The described topic is mainly and detailed covered in chapter 3. You can use the code COMP315 for 30% off (incl. free shipping, worldwide).



Wolfram Nagel

UX Designer (@TeamViewer), UI Architect, JTBD Practitioner, Author of “Multiscreen UX Design”, Initiator of the “Design Methods Finder”. I love my 👪 and ⚽️🚵📸