Even if not everyone feels he needs a tablet, the smartphone has become a necessity. Unlike other devices, it has the advantage of combining several uses in one.
Originally, smartphone use was widespread among young people. Today, people older than 50 are joining in and multitasking. They watch a series on their television while simultaneously checking their e-mail or watching another video on their mobiles. This approach defines the whole "connected" generation. According to the latest figures from ComScore, 61% of viewers are now connected while glancing at a TV program.
Multitasking is present in all contexts, whether personal or professional. Wroblewski's formula, "one eye, one inch", describes quite well how little time and attention is dedicated to the smartphone.
Another smartphone feature is its any time, anywhere availability. The word "mobile" reflects the main advantage of this tool: mobility, physical and cognitive. At home, at the office or in a supermarket queue, any free moment is enough to connect to the Internet or to launch an application.
User experience has to take into account these new behaviours, in short to be "Mobile First". Users must be able to access information quickly, without sorting through extraneous content.
This efficiency demanded by users means designers must surpass themselves. Constraints of interface and limited time seem to be pitfalls for the designer to confront all along the design process. But are they really pitfalls when they can result in a mobile service sometimes better than the web version?
Joe Hewitt, developer of the Facebook application for iPhone, explains: "My goal was initially just to make a mobile companion for the Facebook.com mothership, but once I got comfortable with the platform I became convinced it was possible to create a version of Facebook that was actually better than the website!" Why better? Designing a mobile application requires drastic choices. Anything not strictly necessary for user experience is eliminated and the resulting efficiency makes that experience smoother.
A mobile project always starts with a user need and any mobile application that fails to answer that need is simply not used. So observing users to analyse their needs is essential.
Our Axance teams individually observe more than 1,500 people per year in the real context of Internet use on PC, mobile or tablet. And for two years now we have heard: "I don't understand why they have such a nice simple mobile application and a such a complicated website."
- The customer is king, so listen to him!
Rather than adapt a website to a mobile support, designers do the opposite: they first design for mobile and next adapt the interface to a web platform.
Axance teams adapt themselves to the requirements of the project and have decided to think "Mobile First", placing mobile at the forefront of design. Rather than adapting an existing website to a mobile device, designers first design for mobile and later expand the design to the more spacious website. This approach makes more sense. It's easier to design what's indispensable first and later expand the design to the larger, less restrictive website.
Services and sites developed using this principle have the advantage of highlighting essential information and functions. Doing things this way often leads to a simpler and clearer user experience and that, in turn, makes providing more specific content on a PC or tablet easier.
So what if “mobile first” in fact delivers excellence by turning multiple constraints into an advantage that can then be adapted to larger and freer media? In other words, what about rethinking design in all media for more efficient service and better design?