RIM = Rich Internet Mobile ?

Designing and creating a site for mobile devices is now easy. Rather than relying on a separate and proprietary programming language, developers can create mobile sites using tried and tested technologies from the web.

Be careful, though. Beyond the promised land of easy roll out lies the potential minefield of poor user experience. To this end, some element of self-restraint is required for companies creating mobile apps. What works on the web using a PC doesn’t automatically translate to the mobile.

It can be easy to get carried away when designing mobile apps. There’s a temptation to add as many elements as possible, just to ensure all possible customer demands are covered. Reign in your expectations.

Think of your own use of enterprise applications; how many functions do you actually use? When it comes to standard word processing and spreadsheet tools, do you actually use more than a dozen functions?

Apply the same logic to your creation of mobile apps and avoid being too rich. Rather than trying to be all things to all users, hone the most important elements that will help ensure a strong customer experience.

When you have a set of core functions, keep the display simple. Use a basic graphical user interface (GUI), steering clear of complex widgets and graphics.

An over-complicated GUI – relying on the manipulation of multiple items – will be frustrating to use. It also is unlikely to suit the form and function of the mobile device.

Keep in mind the limited screen real estate of modern mobile phones. Despite ongoing developments in rollable screen technology (which I blogged about last month), most mobile devices only provide a small display.

If users only draw upon a limited amount of functionality in their enterprise apps, it’s extremely unlikely they’re going to want more items on a portable device. More to the point, they probably can’t.

In addition to a limited screen estate, mobile phones are often restricted by their reliance on higher bandwidth. Move to a place with a limited connection and mobile apps can take a considerable amount of time to download or respond.

With access speeds being so inconsistent, it simply does not make sense to load mobile applications with flashy graphics and interactive features.

So, avoid being rich and keep you mobile software simple. Rather than overdressing your applications, find an approach that provides high usability. The reward will come in the form of a great customer experience.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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