Jeremy Johnson — Dallas Area UX & CX Leader
customer experience leader


Interactions for the mobile experience

Mobile Interactions When creating an online desktop experience, as Designers we want to choose the most interactive medium possible - then weigh that with the audience we're designing for and make a decision. XHTML/AJAX? Adobe AIR? MS Silverlight? With each of these options we can create a highly interactive experience, with real-time interactions, large graphics, sound, and even 3D in some cases. And it's something we've grown accustom to with better computers, better browsers, and more bandwidth.

But when Designing for mobile, we're kind of partying like it's 1999. With browser fragmentation, low speeds, and low adoption of mobile data - what interactions should you be designing for mobile devices?

There are four main ways to interact with a mobile device:

  • Voice (Approx. 100% Adoption)
  • SMS/MMS (Approx. 40% Adoption)
  • the mobile browser (Approx. 15% Adoption)
  • content via. mobile applications (Approx. 4% Adoption)

And within each of those segments it's fragmented further with five different ways to display mobile content through a browser:

  • Small Screen Rendering
  • Reformatting
  • Mobile Style Sheets
  • Mobile Specific XHTML
  • “desktop web” DeepFish / Mobile Safari / S60
  • ... and all the different browsers (40+)

and at least eight ways to develop a application for the different devices:

  • BREW
  • Windows Mobile OS (and Smart Phone)
  • BlackBerry OS
  • Nokia S60
  • Flash Lite
  • Opera Widgets

So which do you choose?

I put together this graph to illustrate the different options:

Mobile Interactions

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I've updated the PDF above with more information - Download Updated PDF (400k)

I like Google's approach, they've explored almost every interaction point, including voice with the new GOOG-411 service. You can get addresses, and look up business via SMS, web, or get a downloadable application - even a custom BlackBerry application that uses the phones GPS to determine your current location.

Now, if you use each of these I'm sure you'll find the custom OS application the easiest to use, and overall the best experience. But, not everyone has the resources that Google has (in-fact I'm not sure anyone does!). This means you really need to look at your audience, the resources available, and make a decision on what to develop for.

A project I'm currently working on we ran into this very problem. We had vendors pushing applications, but the adoption for these are very niche - and our user research really didn't support the cost to create a custom application. As a UX Designer, this is disappointing ;-) But wanting to earn that "D" in Designer, working with constraints is a good thing. So we decided to go with a mobile specific site - and that's what I'm currently working on.

Just because you're not getting the best interaction on a device, doesn't mean the experience is reduced, it's up to you to give people a great experience on any medium and platform - and that's what makes a great Designer.