Day Two at Future of Mobile

By Elaine McVicar

Today was another great day full of interesting, thoughts, advice and insights into what lies ahead for the industry.

The first talk of the day was from Dan Appelquist. His talk was entitled ‘The future of the future of machine to machine’. He introduced the topic by taking us back to the inception of mobile devices. They came in a variety of ever developing forms, so it was thought that the innovation of the industrial design of devices would continue. But now we all have a very similar rectangular device…all the magic happens on the inside! He continued to discuss the connected device experience. All the ‘machines’ around us could be talking to each other, creating much more personalised and integrated experiences. He also discussed ways of prototyping for this – take a look at Arduino.

Simon Cross from Facebook spoke about HTML5 vs Native – okay, so Facebook have now released a more native version of their app but when HTML5 and device capabilities catch up then it could easily swing back. He described the 3 key issues that make people choose a native app - performance, distribution and monetisation. Time and continued development will help solve the performance issue, but Facebook can help you solve your distribution and monetisation by using their platform to reach your potential paying users.

Erik Loehfelm talked to us about some user experience basics. Focus on people and focus on the context. Designing for mobile isn’t a technological challenge, but an experience design challenge. He encouraged us to sketch and prototype ideas first – you need to be cheap and fast with your failures to create a better experience.

The lovely Hervé Mischler gave us some handy tips on the differences between designing for iOS and Android. This included some basics on the structure of the overall app, but also some useful details, such as the UI element dimensions and spacing in Android always being in multiples of 8. The best places to get a better understanding of this is from the iOS and Android guidelines.

The EU Cookie Directive being enforced this year has encouraged many of us to start looking more closely at privacy online. Keri Lambden gave us an introduction to how privacy laws began, and went on to describe how you need to build trust with your customers to get them to really support your brand and use your services. She’s also creating a think tank called Informed Choices to explore how you can innovate to create better privacy solutions.

Living Services was the talk I enjoyed the most today. Louisa Heinrich from Fjord explained how the world is made up of things that don’t have screens. We use services and interact with things – all without thinking about how these are put together. The complexity is in the background. But a future can exist where the things around us can help us manage our lifestyles even more efficiently.

Another lovely talk was by Robin Christopherson from Ability Net. He spoke about how mobile and mobile apps can make the lives of those with disabilities or impairments easier. But if your app isn’t programmed with accessibility in mind, it can be entirely unusable. Don’t only cater for the 80% of people with no impairments– design for everyone. He also explained how the maps in iOS6 aren’t so bad. They have really advanced VoiceOver services, making them one of the best map applications out there when it comes to accessibility.

The final talk was from Bruce Lawson. I found his let’s destroy the web talk a little difficult to follow, although it was entertaining. He was generally being ironic about a variety of features and attitudes across the web over the years that have made it un-accessible to a large percentage of users, whether it was due to their browser, bandwidth or device. I’m pretty sure he was telling us not to do these things, and that we should make the web open and easy to use for everyone, but I think the problem was that I felt like the direction of the talk jumped around a little too much. 

There seemed to be two key themes that came out of the past couple of days. Firstly there is context. Mobile has made us realise that we need to consider the context of use for what we are designing – who is using it and where. But this isn’t just for mobile, but across all devices and situations. The second theme was the future of connected devices. We don’t really know what shape the future is going to take, but certainly the devices around us will all get smarter, get more personalised to our behaviour, and probably won’t have any sort of touch screen on them.

What do you think?