Mobile Web Design

Rethinking the iPhone’s Role in Computing

This article raises an interesting question about the iPhone. Is the iPhone a computer that happens to make phone calls or is it a phone that has huge computing capabilities. Tim Bajarin compares the iPhone to the Palm Pre and the Blackberry in this article and points out the huge gap between the iPhone and other PDAs. I think that Apple’s decision to go more toward a computer that happens to make phone calls is going to revolutionize the telephony, computer, and design industries. I believe that eventually, the iPhone will be your “pocket” computer and when you get home, you will put it in some sort of docking station where it will be hooked up to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals and people will no longer need to have a laptop or a desktop unit. Just as many people are getting rid of their landlines in favor of just using their cell phones, mobile users will just have their “pocket” computer. Especially in light of all of the cloud computing options available as well as the many ways to have all of your documents and files to be web-based, these factors will only accelerate the move toward the handheld computer, in my opinion. The question then becomes, will the other companies continue to add computing features to a phone or will they follow the Apple path?

Designing for the Mobile Web

This is a fabulous article that goes through seven steps that a mobile web designer needs to think about and various aspects to be aware of as they design for the ever increasing mobile web market. Brian Suda takes you step by step through the initial considerations a designer must take. A couple of things struck me as I was reading this article. One, the decision whether or not to have a separate mobile web URL, a subdomain, or allowing the server to detect the device you are using is a really important decision for the designer. I personally would design a subdomain. I cannot tell you how many times (borrowing my husband’s iPhone) that I go to the mobile web site or it is a case of the server detecting the device, and the site provided does not contain the information or the capabilities that I need. I get incredibly frustrated that I cannot go to the “original” website to get to what I need. Secondly, this also leads into the very important aspect of knowing your visitor and providing the correct mobile web content for them. As designers, are we providing the access the visitor wants in an easily attained manner or does the visitor have to go through ten clicks to get to their desired destination? Lastly, this then brings up designing for the “stubby, fat finger” that is the new stylus. The iPhone has created an environment with only one button and your finger. Are the menus too close together, is it too difficult to log-in, or do you try to click one thing and get another? I liked how Suda points out that iTunes allows the user to set up a mobile profile that already has their log-in information and settings and then gives the user a unique URL to connect to via their mobile device. I think that Apple again is leading the way in how we will eventually be designing this capability into a good majority of our websites, especially if the website contains e-commerce.

The App Gold Rush

This blog discusses the boom in app production and as designers we need to be aware of this blossoming industry. As another career path, we may be designing apps to be used in mobile computing. The blog discusses Zinga, Yahoo, and the big daddy of them all, the Apple App Store. The statistics are incredible and I can easily see myself in this career, in fact it holds quite the appeal to me. I believe that this industry spin off of the mobile web design phenomenon is only going boom as the iPhone leads the pack and the other manufacturers try to catch up. App design is something that even web designers need to be aware of as they design a site. Would it be advantageous to the company that you are designing a website for to have an app that would lead customers to their door or add revenue to their bottom line? For example, let’s say The Cheesecake Factory had an app for the iPhone where you threw cheesecakes at targets for points. If your High Score reaches a certain level for the week or the month, then the user receives a $5 gift card from The Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory can then imbed ads and gift card purchase opportunities within the app. So besides the advertisement value, the app could also be a profit center for the restaurant chain. I think we are only beginning to grasp the design potential of the app boom.

On the Clock

This article is pretty silly, but it does bring up the potential of always being on the clock with your employer, especially if your mobile device is provided by the company. I believe that the web design work environment is going to change in the next few years to more designers working from home or at least not in a brick and mortar office. Therefore, your mobile device, whether it is an iPhone or other cell phone, will be an integral part of your career. I have too many friends that are “on call” 24/7 because of this mobile age, especially if the phone is company owned. As future employees, we will need to be aware of this phenomenon and be prepared to take a stance on whether being always available is part of the job or just a boss taking advantage of your time. Time is our most precious commodity and if I am available 24/7, then I have just taken a HUGE pay cut.

Fun Theory

Okay, so this is a VW ad on YouTube, (Thanks to StumbleUpon) but it does point out that as designers we need to think about the visitor having fun on our sites or with our apps. The more fun and appealing we make our sites and apps, the more we stand out from the competition and this translates to more hits and downloads. So, as designers we can no longer just have informative or pretty sites or apps, people want to be entertained. Apple has definitely raised the bar with the iPhone and its capabilities and we need to take design to the next level and make websites and apps appealing on a whole new level – fun.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Any designer who doesnt start setting up a mobile version is going to be left behind. There are only going to be more mobile internet devices and people use services that are easy and well designed, and leave the difficult ones that dont cater to them to fester. In todays fast paced world people need access and directions all the time cause we shouldnt have to work as hard to find places and people that matter to us. There was a brief time in the past few decades when mobile computing just wasnt a possibility and it locked us to our desktops. With small powerful devices we can be outside and live our lives in a much healthier way, socially interacting face to face and virtually, and more often now those groups are merging. Bigger circles mean more friends and more information, more places to be.

    Reply

  2. I have learned a great deal of information from your blog. This is the second response to your blog because the first on dissappeared into hyperspace. In other words I was coming to my conclusion and I wanted to check on of your links and when I came back everything that I had written was gone(oops).
    I agree with the response that you received above that we as designers all need to get pretty comfortable with mobile web. I actually think that I will focus most of my attention on the mobile web because it seems to be where we are heading. The applications are already pretty amazinq with the iPhone but we are just getting started.
    Imagine a phone/computer that can be carried around and used for almost a limitless amount of things. If someone could somehow put a small projector in it we could sit at a Starbucks and project our images on the wall in a large or small scale while overpaying for coffee. We could do a presentation with all of our information saved in a “cloud” and display the images on the wall with just our phone. Think of how convenient it would be to have a usable virtual keboard projected out of the other end to make typing a report available aywhere. Now imagine a device that we have on the tip of our finger that we use on the display on the wall that operates better than the desktop mice that we use today.
    We are obviously not quite that advanced yet but I am looking forward to saying goodbye to the days of carrying clunky projectors and 10 to fifteen pound laptop computers with me. I am tired of wires and cords cluttering up my office and desk and computer keyboards taking up desk space. Now that we are working together at the fastest pace ever we as a global economy should be able to achieve this within the next 5-10 years or less! What do you think?

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  3. Posted by msjaunty on November 1, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I think that as cell phone usage increases and cosumers want full access to the internet via their phones, suppliers are going to have make sure that they are able to handle the volume. Before web designers worry about white space and ad banners, providers have to make sure the infrastructure is sound; that the needed bandwith is there.
    On the subject of availability: I don’t think an employee should be available to their employers 24/7. I very well may be working on a project or brainstorming on my on time, but that is not an invitation to call whenever you feel like it unless that arrangement has been predetermined. I believe in giving 110% to whatever you are doing, but there also has to be a balance, otherwise you WILL burn out. Something will slip through the cracks or someone will suffer from your lack of attention. So find a balance between work and your personal life. Give yourself permission to relax and rejuvanate. That is how you will be open to inspiration and perform at your best.
    And lastly the fun factor: I believe we, as future web designers should research the market to find out what our audiences want. Compare that to what it is we want when we are on the web, and act accordingly. We have to take off our technical caps sometimes and step into that role of consumers to address the needs of our clients. Most importantly, never loose focus of why we chose this profession.

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  4. Posted by poster55 on November 2, 2009 at 4:16 am

    I found it pretty interesting we share a lot of the same views about the Iphone, but I think one thing Apple will have to realize soon, much like Microsoft is starting to learn, that you have to be more transparant in these times with your industry.

    What I mean by that, is opening the doors to the community, to be less linear in your perspective and let them adapt and mold your services to their needs. Apple is -very- linear in their perspective in a lot of ways. While they support custom apps, they limit the service providers who can carry their phone, and they limit the distribution methods for those apps to itunes.

    If they don’t learn to adapt the Web 2.0 standards into their business someone is going to come along like Google, who will and wipe them off the map. Because that is what customers are looking for in the market right now. They want freedom to use what they purchase the way they want to, not the way they’re told to. They’re becoming more and more spoiled with the freedom Web 2.0 offers them and so when you look at companies like Apple it’s far less appealing to others that offer similar services with a lot more freedom. The only issue is right now, no one else is offering the hardware.

    It’s pretty common in this industry though, the ones who fail to adapt are brushed aside by the ones who do. It’s good that we’re learning this philosophy early on in our classes though, because if we don’t learn to adapt now as we’re getting into it, we too will just get brushed aside when we get out there in the developer world.

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