It’s been a race for mobile developers to bring increasingly innovative products and services to market, many using their own unique design and technology standards. As a result, there is massive technological fragmentation within the industry — adversely affecting both users and developers of mobile products and services. Adopting industry-wide open standards for operating systems, authoring languages and component-based application programming interfaces (APIs) helps, but it is unfortunately just the start of the conversation. I want to continue the conversation by talking about the importance of fighting for open standards for mobile web development. As companies migrate their content and services to a web-based platform, this fragmentation is going to cause more frustration, resulting in the waste of time, resources and dollars. I hope to support establishing a baseline for mobile web standards, and to promote the adoption of open standards throughout the mobile marketplace.
I’d like to devote some time to defining terms. ‘Mobile’ has become a catch word that is so broad it has very little meaning. The term ‘mobile web’ (or mobile internet) has different meanings depending on context and culture. In developing countries with limited internet access, the only way to access the web is through their mobile phones. In other parts of the world, mobile means accessing high speed wireless bandwidth via existing hotspots set up in public spaces such as café’s and airports, primarily referring to laptop access, and not mobile technology. For the purposes of this blog, the mobile web refers to the internet accessed through a mobile device. The sites accessed can be general web sites, or specific portals created for small screens. Later, I’ll get into thick, thin and smart clients (no, they are not our current clientele, although do describe many).
Defining the mobile user experience has been a challenge. Some might say ‘duh’ when thinking about mobile and lifestyle integration – but I set out to create a diagram that describes my thinking towards creating a true user-centered approach. Applying this user-centered thinking to mobile authoring (think, mobile interface for now – we won’t get into apps versus the mobile web for now…) starts with understanding the key factors in the user experience that influence whether or not the end user will ultimately integrate the product or service into their lifestyle. For the sake of clarity, I’ve broken the experience down into three distinct stages. The stages are: perception “I’m ready to try this out”, interaction “this is easy, I like it” or “this is hard, I don’t like it” and integration “this works for me.”
With the influx of mobile data services, new handsets and little to differentiate various players in the marketplace, we turn to brand as a key decision point in the mobile user experience process. David Pringle, a writer for the Wall Street Journal writes,
“At stake is control of an everyday device owned by more than a billion people. The winner will be in a position to shape the future of the cellphone business and cream off the profits that come from being a premium brand.” Wall Street Journal “After a Long Peace, Wireless Operator Stirs Up Industry”, November 2004
Returning to San Francisco has been an interesting transition ‘back to normal.’ My first day at the office, I made my trademark Japanese Udon for the crew and set about explaining what I had been up to for the two months prior to my re-emergence at the gotomedia loft. The best way to explain the mobile experience seemed to be drawing it out – explaining the technical underpinnings and getting to the acutal mobile experience itself. I pulled out the goto-chicken, an actual chalkboard covered character that sits as still as a sculpture, yet allows for scribbling galore. A functional chicken one might say. So I began to draw the experience, based on the various operating systems and carrier infrastructures, along with devices, cultures and expectation.
“Regardless of the technologies used, the ultimate end users are people, who don’t evolve as rapidly as technology.” – states Karen Donoghue in her book, Built For Use. The Wacom Component study released last week reporting “85 per cent of consumers admit to being ‘too dumb’ to access or use mobile services due to increasing device complexity…” quickly spread through the mobile community, and posted at W2F as well. It should come as no surprise. The need to innovate and differentiate has quickly alienated even the most advanced users. Moving forward – successful deployment of mobile data services, applications and entertainment is contingent on meeting the needs of the end user, not the carrier or platform requirements.
Last night I saw a traveling media art exhibit in Downtown LA last night featuring the beginning development of an AI (artificial intelligence) program called St. Elmo that responds to combinations of words (not just key words) in context. Creater Mark Meadows developed the character (a slightly underweight skeleton) to respond in the midst of narrative, and eventually the character will be able to carry on meaningful conversations. Much like the Japanese AIBO, these technologies have a long way before true interaction will occur. But the concepts behind these creations are mesmerizing.
I arrived in Honolulu a few days ago with one black sandal. Unfortunately, not an uncommon experience. The last three times I have gone out of the country, I have been unable to locate my passport while packing and twice I have had an emergency passport issued at the last minute (embarrassing…). This is all indicative of a lack of what my mother calls ‘yoyu’ time. This is the time ‘in-between’ things, allowing moments to relax, regroup and prepare for next appointment, deadline or arrival. We do not have a word like this in English. It is a very significant cultural difference.
Living in Governors Bay for nearly a month now has been one of the most peaceful retreats I have found. Nestled in the hills overlooking a beautiful bay, the area boasts no local conveniences – no stores or shops, no gas stations, no Starbucks. I am staying about 15 minutes outside of Christchurch (think England in the 1960’s). With no thought, and very little planning, I found myself at the House of Sound and Healing, which is a home with a nearly 280 degree view of the bay, run by a wonderful woman named Eva along with her son Greg. Although high speed internet is available (surprisingly) in this location, I have been operating on a 28.8 speed dial-up connection on a dedicated phone line. This has been working out fairly well, surprisingly.
I call myself a design ethnographer. I immerse myself into the cultures and lifestyles of the end user to create simple, usable and intuitive experiences. The mobile experience is what this site is about – tapping into notions of brand, user experience, usability applied to WAP, SMS, MMS, 3G and more. Global adoption of mobile communication is hitting its second wave, and I intend to witness the expansion and adoption first hand.