What’s the biggest challenge facing mobile designers?


As we get closer to the 2009 MEX Mobile User Experience Conference on 19th – 20th May I’ve been asking key industry stakeholders to share their views on the big issues facing the mobile user experience community. At a Mobile Design UK meet-up earlier this week, I asked a leading group of mobile designers to share their views on the following question:

“What is the biggest challenge faced by designers trying to improve the mobile user experience?”

I found the answers fascinating. They provided a great snapshot of what’s important to the people working at the front line of mobile user experience, implementing UIs, designing devices and prototyping applications.

Here’s what they said:

  • The awareness in knowing what is actually possible and not to assume that what has been created in the past sets some form of rules which they should abide by. Ask questions and don’t be just a ‘designer’; be aware of other people’s roles and make the most of them.
  • Poor native browsers on mass market handsets – why isn’t Opera Mini installed as standard?
  • Create an experience with room to learn. UI is simple at the beginning and more advanced options should be discoverable over time.
  • Trying to understand and create what mobile could be – overcoming that divide between what the user could need and what design can offer to really engage and expand that space.
  • Developers.
  • The notion of motion. The use of motion in the mobile UX is still in its infancy, but it is so important if we are to move things forward. Its importance in giving the user greater context throughout the experience is key, as is its ability to help hint and guide the user, as well as surprising and delighting, cannot be underestimated. The challenge is that there’s no consistency regarding motion design across device platforms, either in its implementation or the pattern’s used. We have to overcome this if we are to move things forward.
  • The complexity of the ecosystem, from 6+ different operating systems, hundreds of device families, lack of clear standards/protocols amongst operators and lack of openness amongst OEMs/networks.
  • The tight binding of mobile software to mobile hardware. The fixed web thrived by iterating fast in software (new browsers, etc). Until recently most mobile devices couldn’t do this, leaving us with an installed base of buggy or outdated devices.
  • Creating an interface which can be altered by the user and saved based on the user’s needs. Larger text and voice-enabling for visually challenged users. Re-arranging sections into a different order.
  • Today the user is at the centre of UX – but tomorrow that will be different. Suggesting alternatives is a very interesting area. Finding the next thing thing to put at the centre of the UE/UX is the big question.
  • Empathy – understanding people.
  • Politics. Silos in organisation. Silos in disciplines.
  • Lack of UI and coding standards across handsets and platforms.
  • Device fragmentation.

What do you think? Please add your own ideas to the MEX blog.

It has never been more important for companies all throughout the mobile value chain to genuinely understand users and translate that knowledge into better, more profitable mobile products. That is what will be driving the agenda at the 2009 MEX Mobile User Experience Conference on 19th – 20th May, with 100 of the industry’s most creative thinkers gathering to develop a collaborative response to the 8 point MEX Manifesto over 2 days.

I hope you’ll join us by registering for the event. We have just 21 places remaining out of the 100 seats available. Register today to guarantee your place (passes are priced at GBP 1499).


7 Comments

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  1. 3
    Sally

    “Today the user is at the centre of UX – but tomorrow that will be different.”

    What does that mean? Really unclear what is meant by this statement — how can users NOT be at the center of user experience?

  2. 5
    Lawrence

    Being able to develop engaging UI and interactions that are Profitable to the user and customer without compromising the user experience to an extent it the objectives become noticeably bias towards revenue generation. Users may see thier device as a tool for living, used when they need or want to and require a device that supports this. main operators and service providers are more interested in ARPU, and may percieve the mobile device as something a user should be interacting with and making purchases on at every opportunity. Being able to balance this and become more aligned towards user needs throughout the ecosystem in order to ensure the user fully appreciates thier device is going to be a big challenge

  3. 6
    Guilhem Ensuque

    Being from a technical background and working for a mobile software development company, it’s interesting to see that there seems to be 2 recurring issues that would need fixing:
    – smooth interaction between creative designers and software developers
    – device fragmentation made easy for the creative designer

    I wonder how the creative designers perceive efforts made by e.g. Adobe to improve in those areas with stuff like Flash Catalyst and Device Central

    My company is working on a new mobile software development technology that would precisely allow full use of Adobe tools for mobile UX development (down to code generation, not just for prototyping), and I would love to hear from the creative designer point of view.

    If you have the time, please take our survey:
    http://openplug.mobileappsdev.sgizmo.com

    All respondents will receive the results and will be entered into a USD250 prize draw

    Thx. And maybe see you at MEX.

  4. 7
    Uri Ashano

    As a designer, this article didn’t bring me to any new insight, we already understand the meaning of Empathy one of teh challenges is the understanding of what people realy do, or need while they are mobile…what are the tasks and use scenarios constraints of being mobile…
    Another challange is creating an experience of Flow…we are all connected to different personal computers in the car,office,home carry our mini computers with us but when was teh last time you had to update your contacts, clanderas,music, or photos? why is synchronizing my iPhone such a phobic experience??? a great challnge is giving users the feel that information is flowing from a ‘central brain’to all of my devices constantly without the burden of doing it myslef.

    next is to take this information and filter it to the constaints above, so i wrote a doc at home, what can i do with it on the road???

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