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Usability for Mobile Devices

In these days almost everybody has a smartphone and therefore the mobility is becoming bigger and keeps growing. That is the reason why designers and developers have to consider several aspects when it is mobile time.

According to the article “10 principles of mobile interface design” by Jonathan Stark for the Net Magazine, “the analysts predict that for 2015 mobile phones will overtake desktop computers as our primary means for accessing the internet”. Based on the information provided by this article, I would like to include some reflections about several topics that I found interesting when we have to design or develop a product oriented to the mobile market.

Mobile is different: There are several differences between smartphones and desktop computers. These differences can most be considered when developing for mobile devices and if is necessary change the development process completely. Some specific factors with pros and cons must be taken into account and carefully considered in order to generate a great product.

Mobile Mindset: The design most be focused on satisfying one specific need, also the main purpose of the application must be useful and help the users to solve their problems. Having a lot of functionality is not always the best idea.


Interfaces:  The interfaces and the interaction points must be based on the platform’s guidelines and also on the interaction that the user is used to. The response of the application must be really quick and react immediately when the user does something.

The interfaces and interactions must be “Thumb Friendly”, this means that the interaction points and the gestures to activate them must be big enough to use different finger sizes. Sometimes it is also called the “Fat Thumbs Problem”.

Also the content should be the main purpose and the interfaces should be simple and minimalists because if the physical space, the priority should be the content and the simplification of the interactions.

Impact the user: The first impression is crucial. The first time a user opens a anew app is very important because it depends on what our user sees to create a “love” or “hate” relation. If the main page is confusing or the application is very difficult to understand and use, maybe our user won’t come back.
Also another point of impact is the icon, as Jonathan Stark mentions in his article; the icon will be the business card. It has to show the purpose of the app, also a neat and clear icon suggests a neat app. So the creation of an icon for the new app must be done very carefully and thinking in details.

Communication: The application has to be informing its state to the user always. Also must provide instant feedback. There are several ways to show the feedback not necessarily has to be in text it could be vibrating or visual pointing out the selection of the user.
It is not recommended to introduce alerts for information purposes; they interrupt the user and must be just included when necessary.

Another important point and when it is necessary to include alerts is the confirmation. When the application needs a decision from the user, the text has to be clear and concrete to avoid confusions. Also, the “safest” action should be marked by default, the software must not decide for the user.

As a conclusion, designing and developing for mobile devices includes a learning phase when the designers and developers must get used to the technology and be in touch with the new environment for their applications. Many factors have to be considered while creating a product for mobile devices and can condition the design because it has to respect and be aligned with the platform guidelines or with the environment guidelines to replicate what the user is used to interact with.

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