Migrating apps to the task oriented mobile world

So you’ve finished your fancy web app or desktop application and now you want to migrate all your hard work over to an on-the-go mobile app. Before you dive right in here’s a few design consideration you should think of when dealing with your Mobile centric application.

Know your user

A mobile device isn’t a desktop computer so don’t try and treat it like one. Mobile users are task oriented. They use their devices in situations where they are responding to an event or some social trigger and want to get something done quickly and as efficiently as possible. This could be as simple as answering a phone call after a ring or checking a message when the device vibrates. At the same time, it could also be an unsolicited response such as taking some notes in a meeting or entering information in a calendar after a conversation. Their mentality is that they are doing a task and that task must be done quickly and effortlessly.

If you don’t agree consider this: once you’ve responded to an event, let’s say you answered a call and spoke to someone, what do you do with the device? Most likely you’ll shove it in your pocket and remove it from thought. Unlike a desktop computer—which sits in front of you with multiple applications in a multitasking environment—a mobile device will sit in your pocket, purse or belt clip. It’s not at the forefront of your mind every second. It’s only there when you have that task to complete, at which time that task is you’re only concern. So what does this mean?

User Experience

The task orientated nature of mobile devices means that user experience is top priority. The user interface for completing the task at had must be slick & compelling, with little to no resistance to completion.

Take for example the Apple iPhone. It isn’t popular because you can talk on the phone, send/receive messages or play games. Great devices already existed that did all those things and did them well. What makes the iPhone compelling is the user experience, the multi touch interaction, the seamless way things seem to integrate and react as you would expect them too.

Take another example. How would you like it if to answer a call you had to unlock your keypad, find the phone app, launch it, and then navigate a bunch of menus and select “answer” in order to talk? That would be pretty silly wouldn’t it? You’d probably lose the caller before it was answered. Well, if that’s so silly, why does it sometimes take a dozen menu selections to get to a point where you can enter information in a mobile app? It might make sense on a desktop system but on a mobile device, if entering info is top priority, that function need to be accessed quickly.

Don’t be the bad app

The interface you create for the mobile user will sell your app and ultimately drive it’s adoption, despite how great your app is or what it can do. It’s true that bad applications may be used every day, but if a nicer looking one comes along the bad one will be dropped like a rock for the nicer one, even if the nicer one has the same—or less!—features. No one will talk in a positive way about a poor user interface but people will gush over a beautiful one even if it has failures elsewhere (remember that iPhone).

Remember, your mobile users may not know what they want to do immediately or even how to do it, they just know they just want to do something so make sure they can get it done quickly and efficiently. Presentation, consistency and predictability are key to the success of your app so take the time to think about it and do it right.