Mobilize: User Researchers Peer Into the Future of the Mobile Web


When asked for takeaways about mobile design, five user experience experts had this to say on a panel at Mobilize 09:

Innovation PanelPrashant Agarwal, Managing Director, Fjord New York, Fjord: While understanding of mobile interaction has improved dramatically, display sizes are not keeping up. The big visual design challenge is reconciling this.

Robin Boyar, Founder, thinktank research & strategy : Give anything you’re developing to your 7-year-old kid and 70-year-old mother. (This got a smattering of applause.)

Jesse James Garrett, President and Founder, Adaptive Path: Make sure you understand the purpose your application fills in the life of your users: when, where, what context, etc.

Denise Gershbein, Creative Director, frog design: What do you mean when you say innovation? Do you mean near-term or long-term paradigm shifting?

Crysta Metcalf, Principal Staff Anthropologist, Social Media Research Lab, Motorola (s MOTO): Stop looking at mobile design in isolation.

Other interesting design challenges suggested by the panel and the Mobilize audience:

  • Gestures: They “will be a big pain in the ass for a while,” said Garrett. “With every finger you add to the interface it goes exponentially more complex.”
  • Augmented reality: This “is the opportunity that’s just going to blow the lid off of everything,” said Gershbein. “That’s the moment when you stop looking down at a device and hold up a lens to the world.” Mobile users could emerge from their insulated bubble of staring into their handsets and back into the social context, she said.

  • Battery life: Even the newer BlackBerrys (s RIMM) now die quickly if “push” apps are left on, said Agarwal.
  • 4G/LTE: Research has to look at the wide angle to understand how people will use new mobile capabilities, said Gershbein. You have to look at patterns and trends in entertainment, culture and elsewhere.
  • Platform and demographic mismatches: Boyar brought up the issue of young and digitally native people not necessarily using the top-of-the-line phones. “The more advanced handsets are not adopted by the younger generation because cost is an issue…so some of the most interesting applications actually aren’t meshing with people who grew up digital,” but rather affluent people above the age of 30, who often have devices subsidized by their work.
  • Set-up: Agarwal said one of the best user experiences he’s seen is on the Amazon Kindle (s AMZN). “You get the device, turn it on, it’s yours — you don’t have to log in, your books are already there. I think it’s a really great experience.”
  • Marketing: “Right now context means location more than anything else, but it has to be much more than that,” said Agarwal. In the near term, that might mean a phone having awareness of the user’s taste in music or a calendar.


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