Thursday, December 02, 2010

Designing for the total mobile experience

I've been working on my first "smart phone" project--investigating how our managed security services portal could accommodate smart phone users. If nothing else, it forced me to take the plunge about a month ago and get an iPhone. Up to now I have used phones to call people and take calls from people. At least I was using a cell phone and not one of those things that hang on the wall and you have to crank.

I was lucky to have done an internal presentation about 2 months ago for IBM on the same topic I will be doing at the STC Summit in Sacramento (Designing user assistance for trial demo software), and the speaker right after me was the manager of the IBM Mobile Research Center. Needless to say, I stayed on to hear what he had to say. (Say what you want about large corporations, how many companies have a Mobile Research Center?)

The most important insight I got from his research was that users distribute a task between their smart phone and their workstation. Smart phones are easier to access than workstations and good for monitoring; workstations are better for doing work than smart phones. I know, kind of duh!, but it's led to a different approach to the UX design than I would have taken.

I am writing use-scenarios that envision the total experience:
  • What triggers the user to access our portal from a smart phone?
  • How much of the task needs to be/should be done on the smart phone?
  • How do we gracefully transition the completion of the task to when the user gets back on our portal from his workstation?
It has really helped me stay away from just redesigning pages to look good in constrained real estate. 

And the way cool part is that my wireframing tool, Basalmiq Mockups, has iPhone templates.

Oh brave new world :-)


greenjars said...

corporations will eat the earth.

Michael Hughes said...

I did say "Say what you like about big corporations." Thanks, greenjars, for saying what you like :-)

Margaret said...

I like your approach. Smart phones are somewhat constrained in just how much you can port to them by their battery life. Using them for intermittent monitoring of an on-going process on a work station makes a lot of sense to me. As long as the user can monitor it and perhaps issue a few basic (start/stop) commands, it doesn't need to be running on the device in in hand (or pocket).

Joe said...

I was at a presentation the other day where the owner of a company that specializes in developing mobile applications for companies said it best. To paraphrase, think of your desktop as dinner. Full course meals, meant to take care of all of your dietary requirements.

Mobile phones are like snacking. They are much lighter weight, not meant to be a full meal, but yet might be very critical to your blood sugar during the day.