Usability for Mobile
Use of mobile technologies has taken off thanks to Apple, Google, Blackberry and others.
Gartner research reported that "In 2009, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8 percent increase from 2008." Neilsen reports that in 2011, nearly 50% of mobile phones are smartphones. Sales of smartphones could top 600,000 units in 2012, if first quarter sales figures from Gartner and IDC are a good indicator.
The mobile revolution is in full swing, and it may be that, at the heart of things, the only thing that has and is still holding back mobile from completely offsetting the desktop computer is (you guessed it) usability:
- Usability of mobile technology for finding and making use of information.
- The usability of many websites; that is, their lack of mobility-friendliness.
- The usability of mobile apps rushed to market without proper testing for usability.
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Usability for smartphones
Designing usable apps and interfaces for smartphones is a challenge that too many take too lightly. Mobile devices are used in every kind of environment, of course, and there are operating systems competing for the market, each with its own strengths and weaknesses and the number of mobile devices on the market seems to multiply daily. While there are design standards, creating any mission-critical interface virtually requires companies to test extensively before going to market.
Designing for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry or other less popular OS's and platforms comes with great challenges.
Who knows about mobile websites, or usability and design for mobile and smartphones?
No one is better equipped to deal with mobile design than seasoned designers. They have coding skills already in place and good designers love elegance which mobile design demands. They have experience creating Internet interactions within technical (and other) constraints. And by and large, designers know how to adapt.
That being said, designers and design teams need to be reminded of some of the fundamental differences between traditional web design and design for mobile and smartphones. These differences include:
- Smaller screen and the restriction (certainly for now) to single-tasking.
- Limited ways of interacting, for both downloading and uploading as well as limitations, especially time limitations, on downloading.
A guide to and overview of usability in designing for smartphones
Here, we provide a multi-page look at issues in user experience design for mobile devices.
In our look at mobile usability, we provide a guide to mobile design, exploring some principles, basics and some theory (which is always in flux). You can also review a case study in mobile testing and usability design. We also offer practical advice on what to think of when considering the question of operating systems, most specifically Android vs. iPhone.
Pages in our guide are as follows:
- Testing for the iPhone, Android and other mobile operating systems and devices requires care and attention. We look at considerations you need to make in testing your application or other mobile interface.
- Mobile usability looks at some fundamental issues that designers face with multiple operating systems and widely varied user expectations, including iconography duplication and problems with other interface signals.
- Mobile usability best practices looks at a number of fundamentals of usability for smartphones.
- iPhone vs Android App Design offers a brief comparison.
Other sources of mobile design information that you may find useful includes: