I can’t believe it myself, but it’s actually been two months since I got back from the Breaking Development conference I attended in Orlando. It was my first time in Florida and given the state of our weather back home, I welcomed the opportunity to soak up some sun.
To try and save some money, I opted to stay at a cheaper nearby hotel. The savings weren’t that much if you factor in the expensive taxi rides over a two mile distance. As an experiment, I asked each one of my taxi drivers if I could walk from hotel to hotel and they all unanimously mentioned the threat of alligators coming out from the grass and mistaking my leg as lunch. I was on the hook for taking the taxi the entire weekend.
The folks at COLE Publishing put on a really good conference with some knowledgeable and well-respected speakers. As for the individual talks, I won’t summarize them here, as many other people have written extensive blog posts about it. In particular, Brad Frost took really great notes and summarized them on his blog. I highly recommended reading his blog or following him on Twitter for his insights on mobile design and development.
Overall, the conference was really informative and presented me with some key takeaways:
- Josh Clark presented on myths that we as designers often rely on. One that stood out to me was the oversimplification of mobile use cases – which results in dumbed down mobile experiences. Many of the initial ideas we as designers have thought about mobile are simply myths and that actually, users expect the same experiences regardless of the device. The user shouldn’t be limited in what they can do based on the device.
- Many of the presenters advocate being “future-friendly”. Given the state in which mobile device usage is growing and the technology is constantly improving, we simply cannot limit our thinking to what we currently know about mobile at the present time. In essence, this means designing and building websites and applications by embracing the unknown future. There was no specific session regarding the issue, however, many of the speakers often talked about the idea and it was an obvious theme for the conference.
On the last day of the conference, I was signed up to attend Josh Clark’s Designing for Touch workshop. It started with some initial introductions and then we got into groups with other attendees and did some design sketching. Our task was to sketch a touch interface for a weight-loss and calorie tracking application. A lot of the groups had very similar ideas with some coming up with really clever and unique ideas. Unfortunately, I had to leave the workshop early to catch my flight back home.
Having had the past two months to think more about mobile design and development has been really helpful. As I start working on our latest project, here are some key points that have helped shape my thinking regarding how I approach mobile:
- Mobile should be thought of first. I find myself thinking about mobile for every new project we start. Whether or not the use-cases identify the need for it or the context doesn’t seem to fit – I have found it helpful to bring up mobile in any case. From experience, we have found that the more difficult path is often the one where we build something and then try to make it work later on small-screen devices.
- Mobile is a reality. We don’t always know where mobile may or may not fit within a particular project scope. The reality, however, is that mobile devices are becoming an integral part of our daily lives. At some point, a case for mobile will come up and it is better to have already anticipated it than not.
- Mobile is something to improve upon. To me, “mobile first” doesn’t necessarily mean designing or building it first. It may just mean building or thinking of a foundation that can support mobile and other unknown devices much easier down the road. Whenever that time comes, mobile becomes something that can be improved upon rather than having to be started from the beginning.