Overcoming the Challenges We Face from Designing For Mobile

Jared Spool

March 15th, 2012

We’re seeing that the move to designing for mobile can be a real challenge for many UX Professionals. Once they get past the initial thinking that it’s just another screen size, they are hit with all the different dimensions of what it takes to create a great mobile experience. That can seem overwhelming at first.

Some of those challenges come up pretty fast. Often, the first one a UX Pro encounters is the realization that you can’t just shrink down the desktop experience and expect it to work. Mobile brings out a need to curate the experience in a way that we didn’t need to do with our desktop interfaces. (It turns out that those desktop interfaces truly could use some curation, but all those pixels let us get away without doing it.)

Another challenge is realizing that what you do away from your desktop machine changes how you think about the problem. Looking up a restaurant’s location at a desktop machine is very different than looking it up in a mobile context, such as in a cab while on the phone trying to give directions to someone who is lost on their way there. Looking up a product description and reviews on an e-commerce site is different when you’re in the store, standing in front of a competitor’s product. Identifying these mobile contexts and designing for them can provide a challenge that stretches even the saviest UX Pro’s skills.

Then, once the UX Pro gets into the design cycles, another challenge is figuring out if they’ve come up with a natural interface in a world with touch, accelerometers, cameras, and location aware devices. It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of focusing on the hardware instead of thinking of the user’s experience.

There are ways to navigate all these challenges (and the others that mobile design presents). A solid understanding of the principles of mobile design and a process that helps with quick iterations, including fast and simple prototyping techniques, gets the UX Pro a rocket boost in the right direction.

We’ve seen this in Rachel Hinman’s work. When she was at Adaptive Path, and now in her work at Nokia, she was one of the first to talk about these challenges and how to navigate them. She was one of the first people we reached out to when we were putting together our UX Immersion program, and was tickled when she said she would put together a full-day workshop to help UX Pros get that necessary boost.

If you’re moving your UX work to include mobile design, you owe it to yourself to look closely at Rachel’s full-day workshop. It’ll provide just what you need to take on the challenges you’re facing.

Rachel Hinman has packed a ton of mobile design awesomeness into her full-day workshop, Mobile UX: From Principles to Prototypes, at the UX Immersion conference in Portland on April 23.

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