Four key principles of mobile user experience design

Mobile keys
In a long article on Boxes and Arrows, Dakota Reese Brown suggests an alternative view of the mobile space based on principles rather than isolated tactics.

“Prior to becoming a senior UX designer at Popular Front Interactive, I spent two years as a mobile UX researcher within the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Mobile Technologies Group – a lab tasked with both future-casting and then rapidly prototyping innovative mobile experiences.

As I transitioned from academia to industry, I discovered that while mobile UX was discussed, it wasn’t discussed from the same broad frame of reference that I was used to within the confines of a research-based institution. Although more recent mobile UX conversations I have found myself in have undoubtedly benefited from the ongoing smart phone revolution, overall I still find these conversations to be needlessly driven by tactical adoration and lacking a conscious consensus regarding the fundamental principles of the mobile-user experience.

I do not presume these following principles to be all-inclusive or ultimately authoritative; rather, it is my hope that they are received as an anecdotal summation of my findings that might then spark and contribute to the larger conversation and consensus-building process.”

Here are the principles he proposes:

  1. There is an intimate relationship between a user and their mobile device.
  2. Screen size implies a user’s state. The user’s state infers their commitment to what is on the screen.
  3. Mobile interfaces are truncated. Other interfaces are not.
  4. Design for mobile platforms — the real ones.

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  1. While I agree very much with the premise that mobile UX should be principle-based, I don’t think these principles cover sufficient ground and are not very actionable.
    While, for instance, it may be true that users are less committed to smaller screens, it only touches on a secondary side aspect. A concluding principle would sound more like: “enable immediate, quick and interruptable mobile interactions” or “small screen interaction need to live up to the ease of use and immediacy of a post-it”. I am sure we could find a number of other, more actionable principles, such as “make generated mobile data trail available and useful to users”, “outsource management and data entry to the PC” (think iTunes – iPod), etc.