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Future Friendly Thinking & The Myth of Mobile Context

As we do our own research and planning for clients’ mobile efforts, we learn a tremendous amount from our peers. So many myths are prevalent in mobile strategy today, it helps to have solid research to counter people who rely on hunches or personal anecdotes to guess how other people will behave.

This is a collection of links and quotes that we’ve found particularly helpful.

Future Friendly group has a nicely curated list of links on aspects of “future friendly”/aka mobile, tablet, desktop, whatever development: http://futurefriend.ly/resources.html

Jeremy Keith’s discussion of the mobile friendly context here is a good summary of people’s arguments http://adactio.com/journal/4443/

“Rather than creating one site for an imaginary desktop user and another for an imaginary mobile user, we need to think about publishing content that people want while adapting the display of that content according to the abilities of the person’s device. That’s why I’m in favour of universal design and the One Web approach.”

Research summary on LukeW’s blog on when and where people use mobile devices: http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1263

Notice that usage is highest (and longest) at home. Full study he cites is here: http://blog.compete.com/2010/03/12/smartphone-owners-a-ready-and-willing-audience/

Luke also spends a lot of time on the idea of detecting features and having UI that supports those features when present and when they aren’t. And interesting way to change your thinking:

“Personally, I think that mobile context is better thought of as device capabilities and constraints coupled with the fact that mobile devices can be used anywhere and everywhere.”

See also Luke’s notes from Rachel Hinman’s talk on Mobile UX Essentials.

That’s not to say that people aren’t using their phones “on the go” with limited time frames and attention spans. That is a use case for sure. But it is not the mobile context; there isn’t one. People use their smartphones because they are almost always more convenient, powered up, have internet access, and are easily at hand. But they use them for “desktop” just as often (if not more so) for “mobile” tasks. Elaine Simpson illustrated the “mobile context” problem nicely in her UX Booth article, http://www.uxbooth.com/blog/how-to-design-a-mobile-responsive-website/

I’ve seen and heard users complain about being taken off to the mobile “optimized” version of the site, only to complain and look for the view full site link. They are using the site on both platforms, and maybe a tablet too. If they’ve looked up something on the desktop site earlier, they often remember where it is visually not architecturally. They want to be able to find it again on their phone. But it isn’t there on the mobile-optimized version. It’s important to consider how the two experiences complement each other.

Stats

Where are smartphone being used? Infographic (sadly I’m not sure how accurate this is since it doesn’t cite a source)

The Pew Presentation on Americans and mobile phones (PDF)

Here’s some great research about how much people use their phone while watching TV (e.g., http://mashable.com/2011/10/13/tv-tablet-smartphone-study-nielsen/ and http://thefonecast.com/News/tabid/62/EntryId/3602/Mobile-shopping-is-popular-when-watching-TV-says-Orange-UK-research.aspx)

Research on Tablet traffic is always showing tablet users are visiting news sites when they are most likely to be at home

It’s somewhat depressing to note that people get too attached to their phones and actually experience anxiety when separated from their phone and it may be making you dumb.

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