Mobile devices have become an integral part of the way we communicate, share content, and discover information. They’ve catalyzed our potential to consume and produce information anytime, anywhere. While mobile devices have reached ubiquity, effective interaction paradigms have lagged by comparison.
What exactly does this mean?
First, let’s consider the form and function of a mobile device.
Mobile devices are ergonomically designed for use “on-the-go.” Their compact form and small keyboards are not optimized for functions such as manual configuration, especially in the context of momentary interactions.
By and large, mobile and web apps require manual searches and user configuration -tasks that are difficult and cumbersome in the context of “on-the-go” use. Further, attempting to complete these tasks often distracts us from our physical surroundings. While manual searches and configuration function effectively for stationary interactions akin to using a desktop computer, they do not translate effectively to the dynamic context of the mobile paradigm.
To situate this concept in a real-life scenario, let’s consider the following…
If I were planning to head to an airport, I’d check my smartphone for:
- My weather app (for the weather in my current location and at my destination)
- My taxi service app (to get to the airport)
Once I arrive at the airport, I’d then require:
- My airline app (containing my boarding pass, flight info, etc.)
- My airport app (to locate nearby amenities and services)
In this instance, I’d have to toggle between 4 different applications just to find the information that I needed [when and where I needed it].
Today, our mobile devices are inundated by a myriad of apps, the majority of which require manual searches to retrieve information, only adding to the complexity of finding the information we need at the right time, in the right place. Designing conventional apps is no longer a sustainable mobile strategy.
It’s time to change the mobile paradigm.
If mobile devices are designed to afford engagement anytime and anywhere, it is only fitting for apps to operate in a similar fashion; that is, to function responsively based on a mobile user’s context.
What is context?
Instead of designing apps that require users to search through multiple sources of information, apps and services should dynamically filter and deliver relevant information tailored to individual users. This can be done effectively by understanding a user’s context.
Context is not solely relative to a user’s location, but can also leverage user behavior and habits, environmental parameters, time-of-day, social information, sensory data, and more.
By understanding context, we can create and refine robust design thinking strategies that are optimized for the mobile paradigm. Building “smart” self-adaptive applications creates holistic user experiences; filtering information eliminates user search and configuration, allowing users to remain engaged with their physical surroundings and extending their ability to experience their surroundings.
Let’s re-envision my airport journey with a context-aware app design.
I wake up to an alert, reminding me of my flight’s departure time. As I clear the notification, my airport app opens, displaying the weather at my current location and destination, and an itinerary that suggests when I should leave for the airport based on my flight information and current wait-times at security screening.
By accepting the recommendation, I am given the option have a cab pick me up (set to arrive at the suggested time) and take me to the airport.
Through a single tap on my device, I am able to plan my trip with ease and efficiency.
Upon entering the airport, I receive a notification, informing me that I’ve been checked-in. When I accept the status, the app is launched and displays real-time flight information exclusive to my trip.
As I make my way through the security screening, I receive an alert, stating that my gate has changed. By tapping on the alert, the app launches an augmented reality way-finder that guides me to my new gate.
I arrive at my gate on time and my boarding pass is readily displayed on my phone as I prepare to board the plane.
Without having to search for information when or where I needed it, I was effectively guided to the airport, promptly notified of changes to my travel plans, and quickly directed to my new gate. A unified platform not only improved my personal experience, but also optimized my productivity and efficiency throughout the entirety of my airport journey.
The example above is just one of many examples that demonstrate the potentialities of a self-adaptive, highly personalized and multifaceted app platform.
Designing long-term mobile strategies begins with a shift in design thinking. Context is key and the possibilities are limitless. I encourage you to come on board with us, and build mobile apps that are designed not just for today, but for a smarter future.