In the previous post I briefly touched on the idea that a mobile web application should be useful. While this sounds obvious, it can be truly difficult to determine the utility of an application. This post will explore the concept a little further.
Mobile Applications Should Be Designed With Their Medium in Mind
When thinking about developing a mobile application, one should aim to create an application that provides its users with a useful use. While this is an important consideration, what is sometimes forgotten is it that the mobile application should take advantage of the medium it operates in. Simply put, a mobile web application should take advantage of the software and hardware many mobile devices offer. For example, touch screens drastically change how users interact (as compared to a mouse). Images can easily be manipulated, so you don’t have to rely on text as much to convey a message. It’s also important to keep in mind that mobile devices tend to have limited processing power. This is changing as time goes on, but cellphones still have a fraction of the power of a laptop. Meaning you have to keep a mobile web application light. This is normally achieved by creating an application with one use in mind. This way you reduce the amount of processing power needed as it only has to do one thing.
Considering The Environment
When developing a mobile application it is important to factor in the environment its users will be operating in. One possibility is they’ll be on-the-go. Therefore, in order to create a useful application the functionality of the application should be designed to incorporate the mobile environment that the users will likely be in. For example, take QR codes. Which, while not mobile web applications in the traditional sense, they do share some common aspects. QR codes take great advantage of the environmental factors mobile users face. A QR code allows a mobile user to scan (or take a picture) the code which provides them with content they can consume on their own time. Because they are mobile the attention span of each user is slightly diminished, as various other external variables could be distracting them. Therefore, a bar code scanner application allows the user to consume the entirety of the content later; just scan the code and save it for later, when things are less hectic.
Another point to consider is, by allowing users to scan QR codes at their discretion, could point towards the possibility that those consumers are taking the time, and effort to perform such an action because they are generally interested in the product/service. Therefore, a mobile application such as a bar code scanner, offers consumers a way to interact with your organization on their own terms. Since it is their choice to scan the code, you might find that they are more willing to purchase your product/service.
Allowing consumers to scan a code and read it on their own device when they want to may facilitate interaction between both business and customer, but the example above takes a client focus. However, the same logic can be applied applications made for internal – staff – use. By designing an application that will allow staff access to information when in the field, permitting staff access to blueprints, marketing material, even e-business cards through an application means that staff are provided with the right tools for when they are in the field.
Generally, mobile applications should provide a unique and useful function for each user. This is what a lot of applications focus on, but by doing this you can loose sight of some important points that will also create a useful and unique application. One such is to be conscious of the medium web applications operate within. The environment the user will be operating around is another vital point. Considering that the user might not be stationary, could mean that the way they interact with their surroundings could be drastically different than if they were sitting around in their office.