Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work on my first mobile web application. For me this has been truly exciting as I’ve always felt late to the game when it comes to mobile. I was quick to reach out to my twitter network for support and resource options. I ate up anything I could get my hands on in regards to mobile design and development, and now have, what my team and I think, is a great paper prototype and wireframe set for the mobile web app that we are planning to build.
While doing all of the reading and research, I couldn’t help but think about the overall concept for designing for mobile which is to “Keep it Simple”. I started to read more and more (most of my reading was from Brian Fling’s Mobile Design and Development book. Buy it. It’s worth it!), and kept thinking “why aren’t we designing everything this way?” Why aren’t we just designing for what is needed to complete the user tasks? Why do we add so much to our designs?
I know this sounds extremist, and I’m potentially just way late to the game, and everyone else has already picked up on this, so just appease me, but why all the fluff? Why do we create all the features that 20% or less of users actually use. In my research, I stumbled across Luke W’s article from late last year entitled Mobile First. I think that Luke is 100% right in this article. Read it over and you’ll see what I mean. The most important point that I took away was point number 2: Mobile Forces You to Focus. Basically, due to screen real estate, one should only design for the user tasks that would be completed using a mobile device. Everything else gets thrown out the window. Brian Fling mentions it in his Chapter 7: Mobile Information Architecture. He says “If something doesn’t support the defined goals, lose it. Go back to your user goals and needs, and identify the tasks that map to them. Find those needs and fill them.”
My question for everyone is: Why doesn’t this extend to the entirety of our web design? Why is it that we add all the other features that don’t map to these needs? I would argue that one reason is probably because we don’t take the time to really define the needs of the user. Mobile, as Luke W mentions, forces us to do so. We should make non-mobile web design the same. We should be hard on ourselves and not be lazy when it comes to really defining the needs and goals of our users even when we have a bigger screen area to work with. This will allow us to design with a focus on what the user really needs. We can and should still make the experience delightful, but that doesn’t mean adding smoke and mirrors. It means adding value. Let’s just keep it simple.