Notes From Building Mobile Experiences

The following verbatim notes are from Building Mobile Experiences by Frank Bentley and Edward Barrett.

Chapter 1: Introduction

The mobile device, more than any other recent invention, is drastically changing the ways in which we interact with each other and with our cities.

[A] mobile experience is everything that happens to a person once they learn about a new application.

The mobile phone is the ideal platform for rich, contextual experiences.

Chapter 2: The User-Centered Design Process Applied to Mobile

Context sensing. Media capture. Social connecting. The mobile experience is defined by these uniques and fluid integrated process.

A powerfully useful mobile device allows a person to take advantage of the necessary and sufficient elements of that physically situated experience: location, time, visual and auditory characteristics, all that is apparent to our sensory apparatus—as well as data of physical states not immediately apprehensible.

[A] powerfully useful application will connect you to other people to share facets of a contextually embedded experience—a real-time, instantaneous connected, or lagged, asynchronous interactions depending on the context.

The mobile user-centered design process builds from real-world observation and experience to ideation, design, build and test.

Design Methods: Good design for mobile services is critical to the ultimate usability of the final solution.

Rapid Prototyping: Quickly creating functional prototypes to test the new experience in the world is a key way that we can quickly identify which are likely to be successful in real-world use.

Chapter 3: Discovering What to Build

General Research: How does one get from a space of interest to a list of potential solutions?

Designing from observations of joy and celebration can create new concepts that are fun to build off of the best of our interactions with the world.

Logging interactions and communication can help researchers to better understand current behavior and use these findings to inspire new solutions that are tied to real users’ lives.

Other research includes: home tour/field visits, task analysis, semi-structured interviews, recruiting users, conducting research, affinity analysis and discount methods.

Chapter 4: Rapid Interactive Prototyping

Because we want to quickly evaluate a new experience, our prototypes tend to be made rapidly to test a specific aspect of a concept with users.

Build the experience, not the technology: Because early prototypes are often focus on answering research questions about how a new system will fit into the lives of our participants, the prototypes that we build are often not engineered in the way that a commercial offerring would be.

Build it sturdy (enough) means avoiding the use of new or untested technology at this stage of research unless it is critical to the research questions that need to be answered.

The most important part of building and testing a rapid prototype of a mobile system is to get out of the lab and into the world.

Chapter 5: Using Specific Mobile Technologies

Understanding technology constraints is a critical step in the mobile design process. Often, designers who come from nontechnical backgrounds do not know the full implications of some of their design choices. When this occurs, the end-user experience frequently suffers.

Chapter 6: Mobile Interaction Design

Modeling: A high-level concept model is often the first step of a new mobile design, long before anything begins to be committed to a screen.

The main objective of the modeling is to help the designer think about the goals of the system in new ways, so completing multiple conceptual models can often help in understanding the full scope of a new concept.

Structure and Flow: User flows demonstrate users’ possible movements through time: how they initiate a process, how they complete it, and what path they take.

Interface Design Principles: The ultimate goal of any interaction design project is to make something that is usable for a wide variety of potential users.

Chapter 7: Usability Evaluation

Mobile usability is more than just the ability to navigate from screen to screen and understand the prompts, icons, and flow of an application.

If a user cannot get the information she needs in the ten or twenty seconds she has while waiting for a bus or a train, your system might not be the first one she turns to. Or if the phone keeps going to sleep while a user is in the middle of another task such as cooking, he might not have a clean hand to wake it back up and find the next step in the recipe.

Chapter 8: Field Testing

Four basic criteria for testing prototypes:

  1. Recruit social groups (people who already know each other) when testing social social technologies instead of asking strangers to act as if they know each other.
  2. Put the technology in the field: ask people to take it home, to work, and all of the places in between and use it as they would if they were not in a study.
  3. Make sure the participant needs to carry only one mobile device.
  4. Select data collection techniques that allow us to come as close as possible to “being there.”

Chapter 9: Distributing Mobile Applications: Putting It All Together

Beta Releases: Before an application is released to potential audience of millions of users through an app store, it is usually beneficial to run a trial in some small scale.

A beta release is often intended to identify any final major bugs in the system with the help of a reasonable number of new users or to collect usage data on a late version of a system to help plan for scaling the final solution.

Scalability: Design for scalability needs to be an early part of the system design.

Instrumentation can help to discover features that are the most popular, discover where paths through the application are not optimal for tasks that users are performing most frequently, and identifying areas that can be improved or might need better prompts or labels.

Upgrades: Once an application is launched, it often needs to be maintained and updated. As new releases are made, users often face the choice of upgrading or not. In most cases, old versions need to be supported indefinitely as many users choose not to upgrade.

Chapter 10: Conclusion

Reaching thousands or millions of users and affecting the way they live their lives and interact with the people and places that are most important to them can be the greatest reward for traveling down this convoluted path of building a mobile experience.

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