A large component of what we do at Foolproof is to understand the context of a site. There are two slants to context. The psychological context, i.e. the assumptions, expectations and needs a user has before arriving at a site. And the environmental context i.e. physically where the site will be used.
Both are important considerations in UCD, traditionally in web UX we’ve focused on the psychological context in order to develop sites that works sympathetically with users. However web users don’t just sit at PC’s anymore and the environmental context is becoming increasingly important for a site or app accessed from a mobile or tablet (iPad, Samsung galaxy tab). Not considering the conditions in which a user might be accessing your site or app may be guaranteeing a site no one uses.
We use mobile phones and tablets in a variety of settings and these must be taken into consideration. Making your mobile site small and fiddly will just frustrate users unable to use it while walking. Long and involving processes simply won’t be used on the bus/tube to work since users see sites in this context as supplemental to their primary task and as such demand that site journeys are self paced and short so they can be managed against varying and unpredictable external conditions.
We recommend always considering the physical setting in which your site / mobile site / app will be used and tailor it appropriately. It won’t be too much longer before we’re either setting up a research facility on buses or recruiting crowds to simulate some of the external conditions users experience when using the web through mobile.
Author: Roger Smithers