June 4, 2012
Design has always been an exercise that happens in context: classic artists have paint and canvas limitations to consider, architects need to know the capabilities of their materials, and today’s interaction designers need to consider the device. By this I don’t mean just the limitations of it (screen real estate, device features, etc), but also the context in which the user is interacting with the gadget.
Users are more focused on a desktop environment and since it’s typically the most capable device, users should be able to do everything possible with your site. Creating, managing, administrating are all easiest on desktop environments. With a mouse, keyboard, and tons of screen real estate, users have all the tools they need to do whatever heavy lifting your product might need. They also are relatively captive at a desk/chair and not wandering around a park/driving their car/in impending danger. Basically, much more can and should be asked of a desktop user.
Please, whatever you do, do not cram your desktop experience into your mobile one. Developers might think that’s the right path since it’s technically possible, but be a good designer and stand up for yourself, your practice and your users.
People who are on their mobile device are distracted with any number of things and typically are killing time between more important tasks. More often than not, they just want to check on something and consume content. Light creation is definitely possible, but don’t expect someone to compose a blog post or sit through some methodical wizard process on their phone.
Designing a mobile experience? Cut, cut, and cut some more. Maybe some of those cuts can get rolled back into the desktop version too.
Tablets, TVs, and cars all have their own contexts. Think about what your users are realistically going to do with your product in these environments and design accordingly.
The old saying, “content is king” is still true, but today the throne is shared with context. Have empathy for your user’s situation when designing your experience.