Ghost in the Pixel

Uday Gajendar's musings on interaction design

Mobile UX Primer: Intro

Primer Introduction

This series represents a comprehensive summary of some core ideas, guidelines, and principles that enable the creation of an exceptional mobile user experience. If you or your team is interested in “mobilizing” an existing desktop/web app or inventing a new mobile app, this offers an overview of what is involved. Then consult with an expert UI designer to begin a collaborative design journey…

** An excellent resource for mobile UX design is Luke Wroblewski’s own Mobile First presentations and writings. Highly recommend! **

What does “Mobile UX” mean

A “mobile user experience” in practical product design context refers to designing products with user interfaces that are optimized for various existing and emerging mobile devices: smartphones, tablets, e-readers, hybrids (like the Motorola Atrix). Small screens and touch-based gestures typify this genre of user experience. Laptops, netbooks, and ultrabooks can arguably be considered “mobile” in an academic sense, but my focus here is mainly OS’s, platforms, and devices targeted for usage by a single person on-the-go across changing contexts, rather than stationary situations.

Why “Mobile UX” matters

Per my recent blog post, there are several major reasons why designing an exceptional mobile UX is vital for companies today.

  • The rapid popular proliferation of mobile devices among customers & users
  • Mobility is fast becoming the top strategic priority for hi-tech firms, including competitors and customers
  • Mobile lifestyles are becoming the norm with workshifting paradigms and emerging device-friendly generations of users (Gen Y, etc.)
  • Cloud is hot. The expectation to have quick, ubiquitous, anytime/anywhere/any device access to cloud-based information (files, apps, settings, histories, profiles, etc.) has quickly become the norm.

In addition, I highly recommend studying this article about mobile UX strategy tips for mobile web, tablets, and phones.

Mobile UX Process

Designing for a mobile UX follows the similar path as designing for any other world-class digital product, with iterative phases of Discovery, Concepting, Refinement, Evaluation, and Implementation with specs and other documented visual & interaction details.

However, the difference is simply this: the deep involvement of the actual devices that are being designed for. If you are designing for iOS, make sure there’s deep understanding of working with an iPhone/iPad, built into your design process. Ditto for Android, Playbook, Windows Phone 7, etc. Make sure you are not designing/iterating/evaluating in a vacuum separate from the device. Emulators and mock-ups can only get you so far. They are ultimately insufficient and leave unanswered issues of human factors, ergonomics, physical settings, environmental factors, which can impact the value and quality of a mobile UX.

If you design and build mobile first, you will get to the core of your features and brand value.


* Mobile Considerations >
* Mobile Principles >

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