Devices: What comes first, the device or the application?

The new age of collaboration and mobility is a wonderful thing – colleagues and connections can be contacted any time, anywhere.

Individuals with all-singing and all-dancing handheld devices, such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and smartphones, can stay connected through a variety of applications.

The result is that users are busily downloading applications for a range of devices. From instant messaging to Facebook and from current affairs to games, individuals are finding ways to run loved applications on their favourite devices.

It all sounds like a new, collaborative age – but sometimes, we’re just too clever for our own good and user experiences can be patchy. The main problem is that the chosen method of application development is often the wrong way round.

Most organisations are prioritising devices. As a result, many businesses recognise more of their customers are using high power mobile devices and are retrofitting their existing applications to handheld devices.

Sounds good, in theory – but the problem is that most applications are designed with one platform in mind. And as applications are pushed across platforms, users are often left with is a poor quality experience.

In practice, we should create an alternative method of development: a need for software should be identified, and the application then created and designed for a specific device.

Second, when considering whether to put an application on a device, companies must also consider whether the tool is appropriate for the device.

How many people chose to do their online banking through a TV? Would you look at your bank statements in front of your family and friends? More specifically, would you want to fill out a lengthy mortgage application form on a mobile phone?

Other examples are not hard to find. How will workers make best use of essential enterprise applications – such as word processing and spreadsheet software – in the mobile age?

Such questions require a significant step change in the way we create applications – in short, businesses must recognise that the design of the application, and a consideration of the device, is absolutely crucial.

Once firms have decided the functionality is appropriate they can then design for the specific screen estate. This method will help prevent over-invention and ensure users are exploiting the right channel for the right purpose.

Certain applications – such as word processing, social networking and location-based services – are quickly becoming a mobile necessity. Your workers will expect to have devices that provide an intuitive link to their favourite applications.

We have a fantastic opportunity to allow our employees to collaborate in new and innovative ways – but only if our mobile devices allow us to make best use of our favourite applications.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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