Elements of Mobile Experience

Posted on April 5, 2006 | Tagged as: , | 0 comments

Designing for mobile devices is often compared with designing for desktop systems – same principles, just in small. That might be true up to a certain degree (some basic findings of usage, usability or interaction design can be applied to both), but the mobile experience is more complex. It is set up of social, contextual and engineering factors that intermingle fluently and form a mobile experience with the user in its middle.

Communication is a basic human need and has a deep social impact on the way people behave and interact. They communicate with each other in a mediated way via communication tools. In mobile live, this interaction is not only limited to lingual conversation. It can be extended to textual messages. Culture and society have defined a set of rules and conventions for communication and technology must adapt these codes. On the other hand communication is stongly influenced by technology. Both evolve depending on each other.

Mobility builds the framework and defines the restrictions and possibilities for the experience. As a prerequisite for mobility, the devices must be portable and product evolution results in miniature communication components. With the favorable small size comes an unfavorable small screen. Mobility also influences social life and has led to a society where not being reachable is a holy manor. Permantent access on information and data is a must and is one of the most important factors in information society.

Design (covering product, interface, interaction and application design) defines the touchpoints with the user. Icons, user interaction conventions, audiovisual-tactile appereance and the user interface hardware form the hard factors that are responsible for the mobile user experience. Well known concepts of direct manipulation and parallel presentation can not be applied (as a result from the small screen). Sequential presentation of menus which must be easily navigateable with softkeys and joysticks require a deep contextual and user understanding.

Technology is the fundamental layer. The biggest challenge here is not to provide the best revolution but an adequate evolution. If the device can be able to do something does not mean it has to do it. Customers feel more happly about building on learned knowledge than struggeling with the latest feature. Good technology fits in the daily, mobile live and makes it more comfortable. It should be a inpiration for further development but not a bedrock for design.

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