Friday, October 12, 2012

Mobile and Your Projects

 By:  M.K., Senior Software Engineer @ G2

I'd like to ask everyone to think about how mobile computing could be incorporated into the projects you are working on.  Ignore for the moment whether or not mobile will ever get approved for use on those projects and just focus on how mobile devices could be used.
When thinking about mobile design here are few concepts to keep in mind:
 
User Context - mobile devices are used in a lot of different contexts.  Users may be walking, driving, talking with friends, or doing a myriad of other tasks.  They may not be focusing 100% of their attention on the device.  Users often want to get into the system, perform 1 or 2 tasks and get out.  The focus should be on accomplishing specific tasks, not necessarily on providing every possible option to the user.
 
Spatial Relationships - mobile devices are not tied down to a set location like traditional PCs.  There are a plethora of spatial cues that a mobile device can use: GPS location, WiFi network, accelerometer, heading, proximity to other devices to name a few.  Which of these cues can be used to enhance your  application and provide a better user experience?
 
Synchronization - mobile devices are only part of the picture.  Users may be switching between different mobile devices, desktops and other platforms.  Intelligently transferring the information between platforms and enabling users to pick up and continue working between devices is an important capability.
 
Complimentary design - mobile devices may not be the best option to accomplish a task.  There are some situations where a certain class of mobile device may not be the best place to do something.  When designing applications to work across multiple platforms you should first focus on providing the most useful and appropriate interactions on the various devices.  There may be tasks that you choose not to enable on a mobile phone but do enable in the desktop, web, or tablet versions.  When used properly in conjunction with synchronization lack of a feature on a platform is not necessarily a shortcoming, especially if enabling that feature degrades the rest of the user experience.
 
The most important thing is that if we don't think about how to enable mobile interactions in our projects someone else will.  Mobile device usage is going to continue to grow, and ignoring it because we don't think it will ever be used in our projects isn't really an option. 

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