Designing for Mobile

Midwest Mobile Summit is in full swing.  With that, it is very interesting to see the similarities with key concepts between some of the presentations here and at Mobile March TC which was just a month ago.  I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Mike Bollinger from Livefront.  He touched on the process and practice of mobile ui design.  While my blogs are typically geared more towards development, sometimes, developers need to put on the designer hat and sometimes it is just nice to know what is going on in a designer’s mind.  Below are the key takeaways that stuck out to me.

First, the statistics.  Globally, 380,000 iPhones are activated each day.  In that same day, only 370,000 babies are born.  Why do all these babies need iPhones? Globally, 1,000,000,000 are in the wild while there are only 1,000,000 smart people.  Something we need to work on.  Yes, these were the jokes to lighten the mood but the stats are still very cool.  Onto the actual takeaways.

Continuity between platforms
It is important to know what platform you are designing for.  Each platform has it’s own ways of doing things and depending on what you are doing on that platform, you may have different use cases to account for.  Even in the different use cases, the user should still feel like they are dealing with the same product.  This is not to say that everything should work the same across each platform, but it should be familiar to the user taking into account platform specific idioms.

Hack for speed
This one is all about distraction.  Applications these days are very data centric.  Users expect everything to be available to them with no waiting.  How does a designer/developer get around this with slow internet connection or large amounts of data that need to be consumed?  Distract the user.  If the user is distracted, they won’t know that they are waiting long periods of time for processes to finish.  A couple of examples of this is to know what data you can handle asynchronously.  Use the data you have currently to give the appearance of speed.  Another example would be to incorporate different animations or images that display to distract the user.  The final example would be to use a splash screen that looks like the actual app.  This gives the user the impression of the application being loaded progressively when the app really hasn’t done anything on the UI yet.

Do one thing really well
Your app should do one thing really well as opposed to doing a slew of different things mediocrely.  This will give the user a less confusing and more enjoyable experience.  For the most part, it is the simple applications that become popular.

Build for joy
This is probably the biggest takeaway from the presentation and it reiterates the key takeaway I got from the keynote at Mobile March TC.  The best way to ensure that people will use your application is to elicit an emotional connection to it.  The emotional connection should trigger a feeling of accomplishment or joy with using the application.  The example of this that was given was Instagram.  Instagram was a very simple application that allowed a user to take a picture and edit it very easily to make the user feel like they are a great photographer and very creative.  Doing this made the user happy and gave them a sense of accomplishment.  You should always be thinking about how to accomplish similar affects while you are designing and developing your mobile applications.

What are your thoughts?  How will you use these takeaways to help you design and develop your next mobile application or enhance your existing crop of applications?  I know I have a few ideas floating around and am excited to implement them.

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