What it really means to design for mobile.
Recently I have been chatting with some folks about what it really means to design for mobile devices. Many people simply think that you can port any application to the mobile phone. In the beginning it seems that this is a rather reasonable approach. However, as you begin to learn more about the actual functionality, interaction, timing, multi-tasking, little attention nature of these devices it becomes very clear that not everything should be mobile. The challenge, as I saw it, then becomes how do make a reasonable compliment to the desktop?... Something that extends the interaction and makes the user engaged during all parts of their day.
However, as I learn more, get deeper into the interaction of the phones, and understand more about how these devices are changing our everyday habits, I am beginning to see that it's not even about making a compliment. It's about making a "mobile system", a "mobile interaction", a "mobile application". It's not about extending the desktop. It's not about interacting with the desktop. It's about making the mobile device a central unit and it's about placing a focus on the whole system... the phone and the desktop (maybe even the TV and radio). It's about figuring out when to push, when to pull, when to alert, notify, sync, and require confirmation. It's mostly about throwing out many of the interaction principles we've learned about and creating ones that make sense for that time and space. It's about giving the user the easiest way to access what they are looking for at any time and making it feel like they are in the application... not on one specific device!
With that said, mobile phones will soon be the primary computing devices for individuals around the world... meaning that more people will have mobile phones than PCs. Therefore, if there is any place, at all, where we should place a central emphasis in this ecosystem of distributed pervasive computing, then it should be on the mobile phone. It's going to do everything eventually anyways, it goes everywhere you go, it's going to be your central hub... why not start thinking about it and designing for it as well? Making it your key access point into all other devices gives the user direction, portability, data access, and control over how they want to extend their experience.
Point being: Thinking about interaction and design from the phone's point of view... makes everything else become increasing more interesting and useful!
(If you like these ideas... you might want to read what Russ had to say about some similar kinds of thoughts too
Happy Mobile Monday!