The Magazine of the Usability Professionals' Association
By Lucas Wxyz
The rise of smartphones and tablets has changed the world in a way similar to the PC back in the 1980s.
In 2011 there were 4 billion mobile phone users. About 1.08 billion were using smartphones. By 2014, the number of Internet users on mobile devices is likely to equal the number on desktop computers, and by 2015, mobile will be the platform of choice.
In 2010, during the D8 Conference, Walt Mossberg from All Things Digital, conducted an interview with Steve Jobs. Jobs compared the PC (and Macs) to a truck, explaining that back when most car users lived in the countryside, a truck was the perfect solution—big, strong, and with lots of space to carry all the things produced on the farm. But when people started to move to the big cities, the trucks became too big and stopped serving the needs of new users. Those in the countryside continued to need the trucks. Those in the city needed something more practical.
In other words, someone who only uses a PC for email and web browsing does not need 8GB of RAM and dual-core processors. Something smaller and simpler is a better solution. Yet the person working on HD video still needs more than iMovie for the iPad to get the job done. They might need “the truck”…and a big one at that.
With mobile devices, we see, and will continue to see, a rise in processing capability, much as we did with PCs, but the needs are different and the road will not be the same. In fact, there are those who argue that it is more important to have a fast connection to 3G or Wi-Fi than to a high-speed processor. The demand is for better screens and better usability. So where do we, the UX consultants, fit in?
Everywhere! With more and more mobile applications and smartphones around, the possibilities are increasing every day. User research, mobile testing, and interface design (for both devices and applications) are just some ideas that come to mind.
Every day more and more information becomes available for UX professionals. It’s good to keep an open mind when reading what’s been posted on the web. Some articles might not fit your immediate needs, but you never know when they’ll come in handy for different situations.
10 Tips for Mobile Usability Testing
After a look around the Web for articles on usability testing for mobile devices, I stumbled upon a number of interesting pieces. The following is from Optimal Usability, on what they’ve learned from their experience testing mobile UX:
Optimal Usability does not talk about anything fancy, or something only they can do. There is no need for fancy equipment or a lab. It’s all about the users: how to get to them, and what to get from them.
Constraints in the Interaction Model
In User Interface Engineering, Jared M. Spool wrote at length about the challenges and opportunities in mobile UX design. Two highlights from the article include:
There is a tendency to think that mobile users are always on the go and use their computers only in their spare time. This might be true, but many mobile users could also find themselves surfing the Web. This might be even more true for tablets. Still, designing for mobile requires cutting down functionality for increased focus on the tasks.
Spool also has some interesting ideas on additional topics:
The guys and gals at UserCentric just published a white paper on the “Top 5 Questions on Mobile Usability Testing.” They are:
When it comes to designing the user experience, Smashing Magazine has published a great set of guidelines. This is a more technical article and requires a careful read. Here are the points to consider:
Designing on the Go
UI Sketcher is a great application that allows users to create mobile sketches. It is easy to use and very responsive, creating designs that export to PDFs or PNGs. It’s affordable and connects to Dropbox.
Staying up-to-date is difficult in these changing times, but it is also what makes working with mobile UX so exciting. There is room for trial and error, and all that has been done will be put to the test in the next couple of years, as much of the world shares the web experience on mobile devices.UX
Lucas Espinosa Menendez, also know as Lucas Wxyz, just completed his BS at KEA Media/IT in eConcept Development, with a focus on UX and User Testing. He is currently working as a user researcher and junior UX consultant at SnitkerGroup in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Usability Professionals' Association
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User Experience Magazine is by and about usability professionals, featuring significant and unique articles dealing with the broad field of usability and the user experience.
This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 2, 2012.
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