Monday, November 02, 2009

SMS Interaction Design Standards

Your SMS (Text Messaging) channel is just one part of your overall communication strategy and must be coordinated with your other channels. Mobile interaction does not stand alone; rather it leverages other forms of communication including print, email, and web. It is important to understand that SMS is not a guaranteed delivery channel and that critical messages should not use the SMS channel alone. SMS should be used as a redundant or additive service.

The first hurdle is to provide awareness of SMS service to users. Second is to provide education of how to gain access to the service. Third you need to explain to users what they can do with the service and how to use the service.

Your SMS project should include
- creating awareness of the offering (How is it being campaigned?)
- strong call to action that inspires users to use the offering (What's in it for them?)
- education of how to use the SMS channel (Adjunctive and Supportive materials)

The user needs to be provided the company short code to send messages to; this is typically through the web or a mailing. They may also need to be a registered website user if they can manage their SMS service from the web.

As Interaction designers, we need to follow the interaction design patterns present in a command line interface rather than a browser based interface. SMS is a “call and response” dialogue that restricts both dialog components to 160 characters or less. (Asian languages are only 70 chars)

The command line interface expects users to learn the short code and commands to be able to access features as well as the syntax the system is expecting. This creates an efficient interchange but not a highly intuitive one. To aid in this non-intuitive interaction, using patterns and standards will help create a consistent interaction that is more learnable and supportive to the user. Understanding that SMS’s key use error conditions are typographical errors and misspellings, will help you plan for ways to support the user as these conditions are encountered.

I will be publishing a white-paper on this topic. Contact me if you would like a downloadable copy.


LeslieW said...

Hi, would love to hear more about this whitepaper =)

Nu-Wah said...

Howdy! i would love to have a downloadable copy myself! i am designing an SMS package and am looking for inspiration and guidance. let me know how its done!

DeeDee said...

Thanks for your interest in the SMS Interaction Design Standards I have compiled based on recent project work. I can email you copy. Send request to