Especially with the rapidly growing popularity of tablet computers, there seems to be an increased focus on getting the user experience (UX) of mobile users right. I’ve quickly come to the realisation that mobile UX design is quite a vast but very specific area, differing quite significantly from designing for the web.
My starting point was to learn about the main concepts and constraints which guide the mobile user experience:
- Simplicity – The main focus of mobile design should be on simplicity. With a limited screen size (and ditto memory) designers are almost forced to keep it simple, to iterate and refine constantly.
- Screen-filling applications – The fact that a mobile application is likely to take up the whole screen during the entire duration of an interaction is a vital consideration to take into account when designing.
- Gestures – The introduction of smartphones like the iPhone a few years ago has added another element to the mix: gestures. I’m learning from experts such as Josh Clark that the physical aspect of mobile devices means that “complex = complicated” and that, again, the challenge is to keep things as simple as possible.
- Different platforms – I learned from Brian Rieger‘s presentations about the importance of considering the specific platform (e.g. Apple iOS, Google Android and BlackBerry Tablet OS) one is designing for. The platform of choice has an impact on a range of areas such as menu options and privacy.
- Convergence of features – Experts such as Luke Wroblewski and Brian Rieger are the first to point out the ‘multi-feature’ nature of most mobile devices, bringing video, music, navigation, chat functionality together, enabling users to discover and to be creative through their device. It’s also an import reason why many advocate the design of “native applications” (i.e. designing for mobile first).
Main learning point: a rapidly growing area, designing for mobile devices is an interesting field. The fact that a user’s interaction with a specific mobile device (phone or table) is very different to traditional engagement with the web, means that UX designers and developers alike are learning quickly about the best ways to design for mobile. If there’s one thing that I’m acutely aware of is that there’s quite a lot for me to learn in this area …
Related links for further learning: