What "Design For Mobile First!" Really Means

It's been three months since we published "Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement," and we've learned a lot by listening to CIO customers and industry professionals talk about the stories and strategy of mobile engagement.

The thing that leaves people scratching their heads is the mantra, Design for mobile first! "What does that mean, exactly?," they ask. "Is it about user interface design?" The industry answer is that it's about user experience design, but that's not quite right. Design for mobile first! is really about business design. Let's start with a thought experiment to re-imagine what's possible on a touchscreen device:

Imagine that your service is in your customer's pocket at all times. Imagine what you could do with that honor.

You could serve your customers in their moments of need. You could use data from device sensors and your own data to understand their context, the time of day, where they are, what they did last time, what they prefer, even their blood pressure, weight, and anxiety level. You could design your mobile experience to be snappy, simple, and built around an "action button" to (you guessed it) help them take the next most likely action.

With the right data and predictive analytics, you could anticipate your customer's next move and light up the correct action button before they even know they need it. You could serve them anywhere at any time. Not just give them self-service mobile access to your shrunken Web site or forms-based transaction system, but truly serve them by placing information and action and control into their hands.

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Measuring Mobile Success . . . How Is Real-Time Data Making Your Customers Healthier And Happier?

One of the key things that differentiates mobile phones from any other device is their ability to deliver a constant stream of real time data coupled with the processing capability to help consumers make a wealth of decisions based on this information. Tablets — we're going to leave home without them, and the majority of connections are over Wi-Fi. Wearable technology collects real-time information and may have applications/display, but we aren't yet seeing devices with the same flexibilty as the phone. The highly anticipated Pebble may yet be the device, but for today, it is the phone. (My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps writes a lot on these devices — see the rest of her research for more information).

With that fact established, my open question is, "Who is making my life better with this ability to process information near instantaneously to help me live a better, healthier life . . .  or at least how I choose to define it?" I think the key to measuring mobile success must lie here — from the perspective of the consumer first before mobile will deliver huge returns in the form of revenue or lower operating costs.

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The New Design-Driven Development Landscape

How did we get from single-channel desktop apps…

In the not-too-distant past web-centric software development had a standard workflow between designers and developers.  This was possible because there was a single delivery channel (the web browser) and well-established development constructs. Design patterns like Model-View-Controller had well known coding counterparts such as Java Server Pages, the JSP Standard Template Library or Struts.  But now, the introduction of mobile computing has significantly altered this design-development workflow.  The key disruptor is the need to target multiple mobile devices with a common set(s) of source code. Regardless of whether devs use a single HTML5/CSS3/JS implementation or native implementations on iOS and Android, there’s a greater burden on designer than in the web-centric past.  What’s worse, the success or failure of mobile apps is more dependent on the complete user experience than ever before.  This new reality requires a major shift within development organizations.

…to multi-channel mobile apps?

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