While technology and devices are fundamental conduits toward progress, they are not ends in and of themselves. They are means to an end, and that end is the enhancement of human life and relationships. To fully deliver on the opportunities mobile promises, we must take a more human-centered approach.
The idea of user-focused design is not uncommon, but its execution all too often is. This gap brought Punchcut to mobile years ago, and it is this same gap that we hope to bridge in sharing the following insights for realizing mobile solutions that offer deep human value.
1. Mobile is a lifestyle, not a device.
The essential truth is that people are mobile, not their devices. Devices, formerly large and fixed, are now smaller and light enough to move with the pace of life. But they have no power, value, or meaning without people. The more we understand people’s lifestyles and motivations that drive them, the more successful we can be in designing natural mobile experiences.
2. Mobile is a constant, natural state.
In anthropological terms, movement is at the foundation of the human condition. Nomadic and migratory at times, explorative and adventurous at others, humankind has shaped their experience through motion. The state of being flexible, dynamic, independent, open, free, opportunistic and adaptable is at the core of all human beings. When we adopt these ideas as a set of design principles, they ensure that experiences across devices, small screen and beyond, are engineered to adapt to a user's mobile lifestyle.
3. It’s about people. And their people.
Human mobility, however, requires a catalyst – and there is perhaps none stronger or more persistent than the desire to connect and relate with one another. Today, this intention helps explain a host of mobile activities and experiences. As such, it changes the landscape for how we design and architect mobile services and products. As specialists in understanding the context of human interaction, we must measure the value of the new mobility on how well it enables users to find ways to come together.
4. Life happens outside a lab.
The only true way to understand mobility is to be mobile. We cannot research and understand the mobile lifestyle through fixed, armchair studies. Both in the generative research and validation stages we must step outside the lab and rely heavily on contextual observations and diary studies that follow users through a typical day. This dynamic observation allows us to move through different contexts with our users, and learn how their modes and motivations change when they are in motion. Mobility is all about changing contexts: motivational (people), environmental (spaces), technical (devices) and functional (services). We use this people-spaces-devices-services construct to evaluate the different contexts within mobile experiences. Considering individuals as they move through different life stages, social maps and cultural situations allows us to see them as real, multi-dimensional people.
5. Feeling is better than feeling efficient.
Mobile devices promise efficiency, but is that enough? Efficiency misses fundamental issues involved with the value of mobile experiences. Knowing when to, and when not to, apply technology is the key to true innovation. It demands we reflect upon the mobile products and services we are creating and judge them by whether or not they help connect people. There are experiences that devices can support and there are experiences that they should not. Challenging devices to stand up to this reality is the key to emotional engagement. In a world with so many stimuli, we need to ensure our mobile user experiences always add positive human value.
Punchcut fundamentally believes that people are the primary focus. By evolving more dynamic research methods and closely observing the changing motivations surrounding mobility, we have developed a practice that transcends device and delivers experiences that truly enhance relationships, rather than challenge them. For the mobile promise to be fully realized, the concept of mobile must move beyond the assumption that it refers only to small screen mobile phone or smartphone devices. When we admit that a television can be a hub and a desktop can be a doorway, mobile can truly become a lifestyle.