Join Brian Thurston Bralczyk for an in-depth discussion in this video Thinking about context, part of UX Foundations: Multidevice Design (2014).
Just like any other project, your multi device project should start with a solid plan for what problems your app will solve or what content your website will offer. It takes a thorough understanding and a committment to what your product will be and who your audience will be to set the context for how it should be delivered. Different kinds of content and tasks are best served by different devices. For example, Concur allows users to capture business expense receipts on the go, taking advantage of a smartphone's camera capabilities.
It's not a task that would be suited to other types of devices. And a desktop or laptop computer with a mouse and keyboard inputs is still a far superior way for users to manage complex Excel spreadsheets. We should never jump to a solution first and try to force it to do what the user needs. Instead, we should look at the task at hand and then choose which device or devices will best help our users accomplish their goals. We also need to consider the context of when and where people use different types of devices.
Laptops and desktop computers are almost always used seated at a desktop or table. Users are typically using a mouse and keyboard as inputs. Although trackpads are also common. Knowing that, we can plan to use PCs for tasks that require finer controls such as mouse clicks or hover states that expose additional information. It's also a good platform for tasks like writing longer blog posts that require more text input. Tablets are most often used at home. According to a Google research study, about 74% of users reported that they used their tablet device somewhere in their home.
And among those people, the most often cited locations were on the couch and in bed. So, reading books, playing games and consuming content are all excellent tasks for tablet devices. They're large enough to interact with and view information or imagery and the user can accomplish their tasks without having to sit up from their leaned back and relaxed position. Mobile devices, on the other hand, can be used anywhere. A lot of people talk about mobile users as being on the go and this is definitely a real scenario.
But think how often you also use your phone sitting at home while watching TV or at your desk, right in front of your work PC. Where people use your app or website on mobile will depend largely on what your product does. Users of Red Laser, a bar code scanner that helps you compare prices on a product, are most likely going to be in a store. But users of IMDB, the Internet Movie Database, are just as likely to be at home or a friend's house looking up the information they just saw about an actor on TV. If you've got an established product, you can do some research and use available statistics to determine where and when people are using it.
If it's a new product, think about your users and plan for their most likely scenarios. We can summarize all of this with a simple equation. Who plus what plus where plus when equals context. It's important to take the time, up front, to really think through your users' context when they use your product. Only then can you decide which devices are best suited to their needs. Lou Krobluski has a great way of phrasing this, design for the user's context, not the device.
- What is multidevice design?
- Creating responsive web apps vs. native apps
- Deciding which screen sizes to support
- Delivering content across devices
- Personalizing content
- Designing for touch
- Using animation on touch devices
- Planning your user flow across devices