Tuesday, November 24, 2009

4 Principles of Mobile UX Design

Boxes and Arrows has an article titled "Four Key Principles of Mobile User Experience Design" written by a former academic mobile UX (User eXperience) researcher. As the author transitioned to private sector he felt that when mobile UX was discussed it was too driven by the gee-whiz factors and not practical principles of mobile user experience. He authors these four principles as a result, which I am summarizing here.

1: There is an intimate relationship between a user and his/her mobile device.

The example the author cites is loaning your phone to someone on a hot, sticky day. Most of us are uncomfortable letting someone fiddle with our phones — partly because of personal data on the phone, and partly because we are so physically tied to our phones we don't want others to soil them.

2: Screen size implies a user's state. The user's state infers his/her commitment to what is on the screen.

The author argues that the declining screen real estate between movie screens, TVs, computers and, ultimately, mobile phones corresponds to the commitment the user has to watch a movie. The real point I take from this that it is far easier to abandon a non-functioning site when on a mobile device, when your attention is already probably minimal, than it would be if you were using a full computer, with the ability adjust a bad experience through browser features and so on.

3: Mobile interfaces are truncated. Other interfaces are not.

Mobile phones themselves do not offer the full array of input options as a computer does. A small QWERTY keyboard (at best), touch screen, and maybe some accelerometers are a far cry from a 12-key number pad, but they don't offer all the options that a desktop computer offers with a mouse, multiple document interface, accelerator/modifier keys and so on. Expecting users to casually enter as much data on the mobile device as they would on their desktop computer is a bad starting point. This has always made me wonder why the .mobi TLD was approved when it has one more character than .com.

4: Design for mobile platforms — the real ones.

The author reminds us that there are four components to mobile devices: Voice, messaging, internet, and applications. It's common for the industry to get caught up in manufacturer-specific features and forget the core of the platform.

Read Up!

There are some good comments on the article furthering the discussion of mobile as a platform beyond just web browsing.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with what you have to say Adrian. I do also see systems becoming more integrated or a fusion thanks to wireless tech in homes and offices, as well as those that use the cloud to share information.
    Eventually I think their will be an integration of todays netbooks and other mobile systems to the point a person doesn't have a home pc any longer. Just a screen, keyboard & mouse, printer and external storage devices. Granted, netbooks can already do that, but they are still limited to a certain degree.
    So, are we eventually looking at a mobile phone with the power of a netbook that can synch with our other devices? I think that is where its headed.

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  2. Ways people access the internet are radically different than just a few years ago. Households without home computers or broadband get online via mobile devices (I'm oversimplifying for space constraints). From the New York Times, July 22, 2009:

    "'The cost of broadband and personal computers drives some users to adopt mobile Internet instead of the traditional wire-line,' Mr. Horrigan said. 'It might make sense to invest the money in a smartphone and a monthly plan that enables you to do so many different things, like make calls and send e-mails.'"

    "The heightened activity among African-Americans and English-speaking Hispanics helps offset lower levels of access to the Internet from traditional outlets, like desktop computers, laptops and home broadband connections. For example, an earlier study conducted by the Internet Project found that African-Americans trailed the national average in broadband access at home."

    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/mobile-internet-use-shrinks-digital-divide/

    This doesn't take into account game consoles and other devices with smaller and more specific form factors.

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  3. You can add that some are using thier mobile devices as their access point to the internet for their laptops and home pc's. Though the cellular service providers frown upon it and most often have it set so the devices have that feature turned off, the ability is there waiting for the hackers to do their deed.

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  4. Using your mobile device as an access point for your laptop is a different animal. At that point you aren't using the mobile user interface, so the principles of mobile UX design no longer apply.

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