The Design Landscape Today Within the Context of Devices Everywhere

The Design Landscape Today Within the Context of Devices Everywhere

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to be a part of an AIGA Webinar titled Devices Everywhere with Ethan Eismann and moderated by Callie Neylan. In the next day or two there should be a more in depth recap of the actual discussion on the AIGA website. For the time being though I thought I’d share some of my points in response to the design landscape within the context of devices everywhere. Below are some of my my points to the design landscape within the context of devices everywhere, a recap from the AIGA can be read on their site.

Designing for mobile first
A couple years ago, the typical steps for designing something on screen meant that a designer designed for a desktop browser. Trying to interact with the site on a mobile device was almost an afterthought. But with more focus on product design and mobile devices, sites and apps are now being designed for mobility first, desktop second. The focus of the desktop has evolved too. Depending on the functionality a desktop might focus more on settings and editing features while the tasks and activities are more focused outside on a mobile device.

It’s kind of fragmented
There’s a lot of tactical and strategic considerations to be made. Primarily is how and why a person will be using the device, and which device, and will there be multiple devices that need to share and interact with each other. How is the content being used on the devices going to be saved, opened and shared? Will two different type of devices be able to interact with each other.

Content that is slightly dynamic can be viewed in almost an infinite number of ways
Think about a blog post—someone can tweet it, email it, view it on tons of different rss feed readers (keep in mind that some of the ui is different on the same rss readers depending on the platform), reblogged and copy + pasted all with a simple tap of a mobile device. How that content is parsed and displayed in new formats all makes for an interesting challenge. Encourage people to share a message or put up a wall that no one has time to read. Images are another issue along with the growing ability to aggregate and embed sound.

People can click, press or do some sort of motion like a wave to do an action
People designing can’t rely on a person clicking. There’s no cursor or mouse over ability on the iPhone and iPad. There’s tapping and swiping gestures that open up the abilty to challenge interactions that were never possible before. Motion sensors can pick up interactions that connect to other devices. People might be typing with one hand and doing something completely different in the other hand.

We have to design around connectivity: wifi, 3 & 4G, and no connectivity at all
When we we’re just designing for the desktop browser, the internet either worked or it didn’t. With devices that changes entirely. How does an app work when there’s no connectivity vs when there is. How do files cache and load when the network speed changes depending on location.

Not only do we have to deal with different browsers, we have to deal with devices and different sized screens
Depending on what type of app is being designed, the interactions are going to be different on different mobile devices. Screen real estate, proportions and formats all need to be considered. Some options are to make the grid fluid and flexible while other times have to be designed differently depending on context. How a tablet might be used could be different from someone using and taking a smart phone everywhere.

There’s the question of how finished a product should be for a release—fully polished or release and iterate
Depending on the product, size of team, budget and timelines of a project, and facing a lot of unknowns about what a person or market is willing to use, the product development cycle might release fast and often fixing and evolving with each iteration. Other strategies rely on keeping the development as secret as possible and release a polished product.

We have to design with and around api’s that can be updated without advance warning
Designing around dynamic data that can be mashed together to create awesome experiences is cool. What’s not cool is when the experience is designed around a data set that may change without any warning.

The fact that we now can measure just about anything has implications for the design process
This isn’t a new idea, but the speed that things can be measured and send alerts to someone is interesting. With that valuable information available at a person’s fingertips allows for decisions to be made in realtime. Designing around that level of dynamic speed could be challenging.

While this isn’t a definitive list, below are a couple sources that I’ve found helpful as I evolve my design skills.


Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning
By Dan M. Brown

Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design
By Bill Buxton

Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World: Adaptive Path on Design
By Peter Merholz, Todd Wilkens, Brandon Schauer, David Verba



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  • ninakix

    Michael! I’ve been incredibly behind on my RSS reader – I think I’m actually declaring RSS bankruptcy, but so be it, but thank you for the link (: Glad my blogging is helpful to somebody!

  • Michael Surtees

    NP! I seem to get something out of what you write which is worth passing on to others.