“Mobile Content: If in Doubt, Leave It Out”
Title of Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox.
Check out Do Lectures. Looks like some interesting content (kind of like TED Talks), but that’s not why I’m posting. Take a close look at how they handle re-sizing the window. As you change width, the screen goes through a series of at least 4 seamless transformations to adapt to the new format—hiding secondary elements, re-sizing things, re-positioning. Very impressive flexible layout. (Via UIE podcasts.)
“It’s much harder to understand complicated information when you’re reading through a peephole.”
From Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox on research into
comprehension on iPhone-sized displays.
His conclusion: “[W]ebsites … must design a separate mobile version for optimal usability. Specifically, complicated content should be rewritten to be shorter, with secondary information deferred to subsidiary pages.”
Worth the maintenance of separate content for desktop and mobile?
“Unless websites are redesigned for the special circumstances of mobile use, the mobile Web will remain a mirage.”
Jakob Nielsen in his latest Alertbox on mobile usability. No news here… which is actually part of the news.
Many findings in the most recent study—which I thought looked pretty darn thorough and well-balanced, from diary studies with users’ own phones to more controlled lab tests—suggest that in some ways we are no better off on the mobile web than we were a decade ago. (Unless you have a pretty large-screened mobile device, such as an iPhone.)
This made me think of Cameron’s advice in Mobile Web Design, that two of the best strategies are “do nothing” (if you are targetting smart phone and especially larger devices such as the iPhone that have a decent chance at rendering the site as-is) and mobile-optimized sites (if you care about anybody else).
Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox today proclaims that we we should Stop Masking Passwords. He claims the usability costs are too high, especially on mobile devices where typos are more common.
I was skeptical, but he has some great points, the most important being that the greatest security risks when you are entering a password are really electronic—someone snooping your password through an unsecure connection. Someone watching your screen can just as easily watch your keyboard to see what keys you tap. But most of the time this is irrelevant, since you are at home and not really being stalked by an over-the-shoulder snooper.
And to cover the occasional Internet kiosk scenario, he suggests providing a checkbox that will let users decide whether they want to mask their password. I like it! Virtual equivalent of cupping your hand around the keypad at an ATM.
Now that I think about it, I have recently noticed that when I type a password on my mobile phone, it briefly shows the last character I typed before replacing it with an asterisk. (Is that an Opera Mobile feature?) That seems to be a concession to some of Nielsen’s points regarding mobile password entry. But I wonder whether it really makes sense either. If it’s visible to you briefly, then it’s visible to a snooper briefly too. But what are the chances that someone can see that teeny tiny text you are taptapping on your phone anyway???
So I guess he’s convinced me! Death to the Asterisk!
If you don’t have budget to fly around the world and witness how people use mobile phones in emerging markets, this may be the next best thing: Adaptive Path’s Mobile Literacy project is complete with photos, anecdotal reports, and video interviews (scroll down to see the videos, which are also on Vimeo).
Many of the newer cool phones are moving to a touch screen only interface (iPhone, G1 [when closed], Storm, etc). They are also supporting the ability to view the same websites that we design for the desktop. This is naturally pretty cool in that they get all those bells and whistles we designed and we don’t have to create a second version of our site specifically for them.
The other day I was on my iPhone, navigating around a site where some of the links didn’t look like links and you wouldn’t think they were links by their placement. I’m going to guess that the designer thought:
- These links aren’t very important
- The user can use their mouse to hover over things to find what is a link and what isn’t (making the user do extra work isn’t very nice btw)
- The user can tab to these links and will discover them that way (still not very nice)
Well as an iPhone user, the links were important, I didn’t have a mouse (cursor really as I can still click), and I didn’t have a tab with which to hop around. The only reason I clicked on them was because I was familiar with the site and knew they were there.
In this new world where mobile devices can see our regular sites, we need to be even more diligent in going back to basics of making sure links are easily viewable. As I mentioned above, it’s not very nice to expect a user to move their mouse over any given word to see if it is a link or not. Our senior generation can’t see subtle differences in color. Now we have devices that don’t have a mouse as we currently understand it and can’t hop between links with a tab key or joystick.
There naturally needs to be a fine line between big bold links and design. I wouldn’t want my page littered with default blue underlined links everywhere. But skewing too far to subtlety, while more aesthetically appealing, may not be very user friendly in general, and out right unusable on these newer devices.
When I first started reading this review of the Blackberry Bold, the home screen UI looked promising. But the further you scroll down and the deeper you dive into the OS, it starts feeling too much like File System Land.
It’s almost as if the designers only had time to make a good-looking home screen so that the phone would sell well (and meet the obligatory marketing requirement of looking iPhone-ish). The rest of the phone’s OS ungracefully degrades the further you explore.
Ars Technica has an article today titled Report: Mobile Internet use has reached “critical mass”. “Using the Internet from mobile devices is a lot more popular than some of us realize, and even more surprising is the fact that the US leads the pack when it comes to mobile Internet usage… It should be noted, however, that while the US may lead in mobile Internet use, other countries lead in terms of mobile being the primary way that their population gets online. In Russia, Brazil, and India, mobile lines far outnumber landlines, and as those countries continue to flourish, they will become a greater driving force in mobile Internet use.” The article also talks about which devices are most commonly used to browse the web, and the top device is probably not what you’d guess.
Ars Technica is reporting that the new version of Google Maps for mobile (version 2.0) is now able to triangulate a users approximate location, even if they don’t have a GPS receiver. This will undoubtedly help make some of our planned mobile apps much more valuable to more users. A demo video is also available.
The new Sony Ericsson K850 sports a rather ingenious keypad improvement: The navikey is combined with the 2 and 5 buttons, reducing the amount of keypad space required for common buttons. (I’m interested to see how this functions in practice, and whether it causes incorrect buttons to be pressed.)
“The process of self-publishing isn’t as glamorous as some (myself) thought it would be.”
Cameron gives a rare peek behind the scenes of self-publishing
Superb work from one of our own here, in the newly released Mobile Web Design by Cameron Moll. Cameron breaks out all his tricks here, delivering a visually stunning and impressively researched gem of a handbook on everything mobile about design. If you’re a designer and own a mobile phone, buy this right now. Just $19 for the PDF.
iPhoney is not an iPhone simulator but instead is designed for web developers who want to create 320 by 480 (or 480 by 320) websites for use with iPhone. It gives you a canvas on which to test the visual quality of your designs.
Windows Mobile devices can now get some iPhone UI goodness with iContact.
“The Weather Channel in the U.S. has a greater reach via the Mobile Web than it does via PC-based Internet, highlighting how the success of sites that provide content for people on the move by optimizing their content for the small screen.”
comScore press release, one of two quoted in Russell Buckley’s commentary linked to earlier
“Telephia and comScore announced today what many of us have long suspected – that the mobile web is growing like Topsy. In fact, 5.7 million people in the UK use the mobile web, as opposed to 30 million who access the web by PC. [...] In the US, the stat is 17% (30 million of 176 million), which is pretty impressive considering that the US often lags behind a little in mobile.”
Russell Buckley, “Mobile Web is 19% of PC Web”
I may have just died and gone to heaven.
Firefox will move to mobile phones – Read More
“You cannot copy the internet (nor TV programming) and expect success on mobile. The mobile is the newest mass media. It is as different as the internet was from TV, or TV was from radio. You need to understand what works.”
Tomi Ahonen, in a massive but enlightening response on Authentic Boredom
Eventhough my kids are not old enough to own cell phones, I often wonder what kind of phone I can give them when the time comes.
The Firefly phone, which came out several months ago, is a good solution for younger kids (maybe 6 thru 12 years old?). There’s a Mom and Dad speed dial and a controlled address book. Really, really simple. I love this phone.
And more recently, Disney Mobile comes out with a phone which I think is perfect for 12 and up. Each phone is equipped with GPS so you can locate the phone with an address and a map! (As long as your child has the phone, you can find them too!) You can also designate the time and day the phone can be used, control the address book, send text messages and more. And just like any phone carrier, you can choose your phone and plan.
Although they don’t say it on the site, it looks like you don’t have to have the entire family on their phones and plans. You can buy one phone and set everything up from their site. Click on the “Learn more” link on their main homepage graphic and watch the demo.