It’s Not About Mobile

Mobile is everywhere. It’s apps for every purpose. It’s smartphones and tablets “killing” the desktop. Everyone has a mobile initiative, and almost every website a mobile version. The problem with this focus on mobile is that it’s the wrong way to look at technology and user experience. Oh, it may have had value a few years ago, but today that perspective is hopelessly obsolete.

Why? Because today, virtually every device is connected. Phones, wearables, tablets and laptops are all connected and are all mobile. So using the term mobile to differentiate technologies has become meaningless.

So maybe it’s not mobile, but touch screens on a mobile user interface that’s important? Sorry, touch screens are everywhere as well.

The real differentiator – the one that matters and should be the primary driver of user experience is not connectivity or mobility, but form factor. Tablets, laptops and desktops have large displays and can all display information in much the same way. They all support similar interaction, whether you are using a finger, stylus or mouse.

But phones and wearables are fundamentally different. They are small. And while technology can increase display resolution, it can’t magically improve human vision or shrink stubby fingers. So apps on these devices have to be designed to present information concisely with simple navigation. This is not the case for tablets, even though they are thought of as mobile devices and run “mobile” operating systems. There is no reason that a tablet application can’t be as sophisticated and complex as one on a desktop – it has the necessary screen real estate.

Yes, there are certain applications where it makes sense to focus on the mobility of the device – a GPS program doesn’t have much value on a desktop machine. But as far as user experience and design goes, it’s time to stop focusing on mobility, and focus more on form-factor. The result will be more usable programs on every device.

Dan Appleman

About Dan Appleman

As Full Circle Insights’ CTO, Dan Appleman brings a broad technology experience to our customers. In addition to having supported over 30 Salesforce.com implementations with technology solutions, Dan is also the author of the book "Advanced Apex Programming for Salesforce.com and Force.com" and has been a speaker at Dreamforce since 2012. Previously, he was the founder of Desaware, Inc. a developer of add-on products for Microsoft Visual Studio, a co-founder of Apress publishing, and the author of numerous books and articles.