Qualities of a mobile designer

Related to my prior post suggesting that we are all mobile designers now, just wanted to clarify what those qualities are. Of course the assumption is that ultimately mobile will become a normal, pervasive, and de facto situation, so we’re all just designers solving for mobile contexts like any other day. Mobile no longer becomes special. But there are still certain qualities necessary to be successful in this arena.

– Must be up-to-date on the latest devices and functionality and services! Just like any designer, need to be aware of what’s happening in the tech sector and pop culture arena. Gotta be clued into emerging trends with insights from Forrester, O’Reilly, etc.

– Sensitivity to dynamic contexts of use and how they shape usage and needs: basically knowing that this app will be used in a loud coffee shop while waiting for a latte or at the hectic airport in the lounge while waiting to board, not just chained to a desk for 8 hours. (like designing for an intensive desktop app)

– Awareness of different UI models and patterns for device form factors: small, medium, and large. How do notifications appear on each, or text input fields, and the  touch targets and motor skills possible and needed for varying sizes. The UI model of a 10″ tablet app may not be the same as a 3″ phone.

– An ecosystem mentality to designing the application/service across multiple devices and within devices (iPhone + iPad + Macbook, for instance). How does an interface carry across? How can one device control another?

– A well-coordinated, balanced approach to consistency of visuals/behaviors/language across different platforms/devices/interface constraints and forms.

– Cognizant of overall framework of Activity > Experience > Value, not just shoehorning a web or desktop app into various UI form factors, but really thinking through (and making real in the UI) the mobile app value–what’s appropriate, sensible, desirable, and delightful?

And of course there is an array of tactical skills with deep mastery of platform limitations and affordances, emulators and toolkits, slicing up graphics per resolutions, etc. But all that is for nought without a baseline of broader, holistic mobile-oriented qualifications. Again, the expectation is that this becomes the new normal for all designers as mobile becomes a de facto lifestyle, like the web.


Leave a Reply