April 27, 2005

whither mobile?

Last week, my colleague Janice wrote an inspiring essay entitled, "It's A Whole New Internet." She addresses the zeitgeist of excitement around web development, talking up tags, Ajax, developer idealism, and the like.

One thing missing from her essay is any mention of design for mobile devices. Three or four years ago, all signs pointed to mobile being the Next Big Thing. I fully expected the mobile design community to have the starry-eyed excitement and energy that the web design community had in 1996, 1997. And that mobile design would genuinely excite people.

Why hasn't that happened? Why haven't any mobile and device design innovations had the same level of engagement, interest, and excitement that Ajax and folksonomies have had? Where are the passionate back-and-forths about the implications of mobile device innovation?

I fully recognize that this may just be me. That maybe I'm not witness to the communities speaking passionately on these issues. But I'm surprised that such discussions haven't gotten more mainstream by this time.

I did some searching around, and the amount of quality discussion on developing good user experiences for devices is surprisingly low. The bulk of the discussion seems to hover around utilizing web standards so that your site can be viewed in mobile browsers. That strikes me as fundamentally uninteresting. I did, however, come across two very thoughtful pieces that suggest we must fundamentally reconsider design for mobile devices. It's not just about making things smaller:

Mobilize, Don’t Miniaturize is an essay by Barbara Ballard making clear that the approach to designing for mobile is not to take an existing app and try to make it work for a very small screen, but instead to understand the context of mobile use and utilize that for applications specific to mobile.

In a similar vein,Design For Small Screens(PDF) is a presentation by Marc Rettig wherein he states near the beginning, "It's about more than just screen size." Filled with lots of good photos.

Posted by peterme at 09:08 PM | Comments (11)


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