Bryan and Stephanie Rieger’s workshop ‘It’s not the device people are after it is all the things the device enables…’ highlighted all that is so fascinating about the mobile user experience. Designing for mobile presents a greater challenge than standard desktop websites and, even with so many smart people in the room, it was clear that best practice is going to take years more to emerge.
Bryan Reiger began with an overview of the landscape, outlining the increasing use of mobile devices across the world. This isn’t an interesting side-note that organisations should consider, but something that demands their attention.
The workshop then moved on to five broad areas:
Diversity of mobile platforms and devices:
Many companies only target the highest end phones, but these products and services only reach a small percentage of mobile users.
Previously, mobile usage was considered to be short tasks carried out in small bursts of time. Now mobile usage is crossing over into many more contexts, with people using their devices at home, on trains and other places where they have significantly more time than before.
The evolution of how we interact with mobile devices has also changed. As touchscreens have become commonplace on phones designers are faced with new challenges. Should we abandon traditional interaction methods or move to touch completely? Is this appropriate for all situations and for all tasks? The consensus seemed to be that, as usual, ‘it depends’.
Perhaps the most contentious and heated part of the workshop, touching on how organisations should deliver mobile experiences to customers. Should we create separate mobile websites or try and present the same content and functionality to users? Of all the topics discussed here and elsewhere in the industry, this is the one that most divides opinion. One of the more interesting points to come out of this section is what you do for users who only access the web on mobile devices. This is increasingly the case in developing countries, where mobile data is far cheaper than a landline broadband connection.
Future of mobile web:
The designers in the room and those in the wider industry have the power to shape what will come, but this will not be without overcoming many obstacles. In the more uncertain and complex world of mobile user experience, we will have to work harder to guide our clients through the decisions that will affect how we experience the web in the future.