Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Just Port. Rethink The Mobile Version Of Your Business Applications


I had a chance to look at several mobile business application demos recently. It is great that enterprise software providers have acknowledged the importance of mobile applications. Unfortunately, several of these mobile application development teams treat mobile apps as a porting exercise.

Recreating a browser based business application in a mobile device without fundamentally rethinking the meaning of that application for a user is counterproductive. It is a bit like cramming a three course meal in an airplane tray table. It is not a very good experience.

I suspect this happens because the application design team hands over to the app to a "mobile team" that ports the existing application to multiple devices. The mobile teams usually have no context or domain experience. So they simply transfer the application features as-they-were designed-for-the-browser to the mobile screen.

My recommendation is to think mobile first when you design your products. Incorporate mobile scenarios in your user stories and rethink the meaning of the application for your mobile users.

To illustrate the need for radical thinking, I picked an alarm clock application that illustrates the possibilities of mobile design. Instead of cramming the screen with more features, the app designers have thought long and hard about what is the most important part of the clock.

Clearly, this app was not simply ported to a mobile phone. Go ahead. Think mobile first.
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