Designing a best in class mobile support experience

At Zendesk I led the design of the native Mobile SDK, defining the design strategy since its inception. Zendesk's Mobile SDK is the most popular native support software on both Android and iOS. Built into thousands of apps on the App Store and Google play store, every month this SDK handles millions of tickets and chats from some of the most popular mobile apps in existence.

The SDK gives Zendesk customers the ability to easily implement Zendesk products natively within their mobile apps, allowing their end users to browse help center articles, or contact support in a familiar conversational interface. Minimal code is needed to get up and running, and a smart theming system was created to allow a plug and play approach if needed, with little to no design consideration needed from the developer.

Plug and play or highly customised UI?

When it comes to the interface, there are two types of customers consuming the SDK. Consumer apps that require a seamless interface that sits comfortably within the iOS Human Interface Guidelines and Android Materiel design system. And the other are the mobile gaming companies, who need a support experience to fit within the custom world they’ve created for their users.

Traditionally we tried to satisfy both these needs, and ultimately that ended up with us hitting the middle of the line above. We provided a UI which could be highly customised, but that still is never enough for gaming experiences, and the tedious customisation options frustrated the customers that want a more plug and play experience.

For the 2.0 release engineers worked on exposing better APIs to satisfy the gaming customers and those that need a highly custom interface. For the other customers, I defined a simplified theming system allowing SDK implementors to get set up far quicker while providing a best in class mobile support experience, and still maintaining visual consistency with the host app.

Various themed navigation bars for iOS
Theme examples on iOS

With this new theme system, on iOS there is only 1 colour to set – user for buttons and NavBar tints. The background of NavBar is inherited from the host app. And on Android the Primary and Accent colour specified by Material design is used. The interface for Tickets, Chats and Articles will always be light with an accessible contrast ratio.

Designing for the future

With the last major release we moved to a fully conversational interface, regardless of whether the chosen support channel is ticketing, chat or messaging. Based on past feedback, and the familiarity mobile consumers have with messaging, the conversational interface enables SDK to handle other channels that may come in the future in a more seamless manner. One day this interface will become the hub of all of the end-user’s conversations.

By taking this approach we reduced choice paralysis over which channel the end user should choose and simply route them to available agents on chat or tickets depending on support capacity or customer profile.

It was great to play a part in the success of this product, I look forward to seeing how the team progress this in the future.

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