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The 4 Cs of cross-platform UX

When we design a new user experience in a digital product, it is very important that we consider all variety of devices people are using nowadays, because the experience you are designing is being delivered through the platform to the user.

As for now, most common platforms existing are:

  • Desktop computers

  • Laptop computers

  • Mobile phones

  • Tablets

  • Smart watches and trackers

  • Smart TVs

  • Touch displays

Of course it would be perfect if users could use your products on all platforms without losing experience quality and usability. However, most common platforms are still desktops, laptops, mobile phones and tablets and therefore these are considered as the priority during initial design stage.


When we design for different platforms we must resizes elements accordingly for different screen sizes without losing usability and maintaining consistency. It is somewhat easy to plan your layout for desktops and laptops, but when it comes to mobile devices, such as mobile phones or even smart watches, you must think very carefully which parts of design are in a higher priority for being displayed in a very limited space.


Because users are interacting with various platforms in a different way, the design decisions would be pretty much affected by this factor. The way user interacts affects the decisions you make in your design. Also, don't forget about accessibility as different groups of people are got used to a different interaction methods, such as screen reader or switch devices. Before designing for people with disabilities, it is worthy to understand their way of interaction with devices and try it yourself.


Layout is the way information is organized on the screen. By the way of example, desktops and laptops offer you a better design flexibility due to their screen space availability. On the contrary, mobile phones are small and the content is being organized vertically that involved a lot of scrolling. Although mobile phones also can be used in a horizontal (landscape) mode, there are still a very huge percentage of people would prefer vertical mode even for watching videos. It is mainly because a lot of products adapted videos for a vertical mode view (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok).


There are a lot of reasons why users are choosing one platform over another and it is very important to understand their choice. Only then you will understand what kind of functionality they need to complete tasks. Keep in mind that it is important to understand users expectations from the product when designing for different platforms.

The 4 Cs of cross-platform design

Successful cross-platform design is the design that provides a good user experiences no matter the platform they are using. Each platform has unique features and the task of a designer is to take the full advantage of them. Before starting a new cross-platform design, there are four rules, or 4Cs, to keep in mind:

  1. Consistency

  2. Continuity

  3. Context

  4. Complementary


Brand identity is one of the factors that helps companies to achieve success. Therefore, it is very important to create guidelines for following the same brand identity throughout all devices to make design look consistent and recognizable. Consistent design also improves user experience by building trust into the brand, because users want to feel familiar with the product no matter the platform they are using.


Because the same product can exists on different platforms, it is very important to provides users the unified experiences on all devices by utilizing continuity rule. Continuity in design is when user can start doing something on one device and finish it later on another without losing any progress in between. Although the user experience on each device is different, but the functionality must remain the same. Just imagine the frustration if your instant messaging app doesn't synchronize messages on tablet or laptop version of the same app. Without continuity there will be frustration; frustration will lead to switching to the product of your competitor.


Context is very important when designing for different devices because we must understand WHEN and HOW users interact with different features on different platforms. For example, think about people who use smartwatch during their running workout - they would use it for tracking their running progress or easy song changing.


This rule is simple - the design for each platform should offer something new for the user and enrich the overall user experience by utilizing unique features of different devices.

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