Mobile UX and the Move Beyond the Phone

Posted by Taylor Haney on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

Another excellent post for our March UX and Design theme from Keith LaFerriere, EVP of Experience Design at Verndale. Keith dives into the transition of mobile UX to wearable technologies and more.

Keith LaFerriereKeith LaFerriere is the EVP of Experience Design at Verndale. His career has taken him from creative director to ux thought leader and back again through his experience on brands such as HBO, MasterCard, Carnival Cruise Lines, Jack Daniels, Volvo and many others. He believes that Collaboration is key, and that the only things that should work in a vacuum are dust bunnies.

I haven’t met a lot of people in my small corner of the industry that don’t have a severe attraction to offering their expertise on how something should be designed for a mobile experience. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Collaboration and ideation within cross-functional team environments opens us up to new and exciting opportunities.

Why is this helpful? Mobile design has just very recently emerged from the nascent stage when you compare it to previous experience types, yet it has the unprecedented pressure to be as perfect as anything else with which we come in contact.

Additionally, If your interpretation of mobile design is the website or app currently resting in your hands, you’re probably looking at it the wrong way. However, if your interpretation includes strategic content decisions and tactical interactive execution via a collection of flexible imagery, media queries, and micro-commerce transactions that have nothing to do with the device you’re using, you’re either a UX professional or you work directly with one on a regular basis.

Either way, the responsibility of creating an engaging, interactive, and reusable experience rests on the shoulders of many UX disciplines.

That being the case: How has global, mobile Internet consumption changed the ways in which UX designers do their work?

Think about this: UX professionals literally architect or design our most intimate digital interface to reality. We get weather, traffic, financial, personal, social and myriad other data types as fast as our connections can deliver them without giving it a second thought. As little as five years ago, this was a burgeoning pipe dream.

In order to keep up with this need for immediate access to useful information, UX designers have had to change the way they handle their approach. In particular, their craft has evolved to reflect the demand in two major ways:

  1. Responsive Web Design

  2. Moving beyond the phone

Responsive Web Design

Can you believe only four short years ago we were stuck in a world of m. and non-mobile site hell? Big brand clients told me time and time again during our requirements gathering sessions that “they care about the mobile consumer” only to turn around and have mobile design be the first thing cut from the budget. (Well, that and usability testing… a topic for another rant.) Enter: Responsive Web Design (RWD).

I don’t know about you, but Responsive has become a very easy conversation with my clients and customers. It’s not always the right option, and I still think there are problems with the ways in which content gets swept under the rug if you don’t employ a sound content strategy. But, in general, RWD is still an impressive way to design a smarter mobile experience.

But is the conversation too easy? If you answered yes, then you’re ready to keep pushing towards the next step in the cycle: Beyond the phone.

Moving Beyond the Phone

As recently as of this writing, Apple officially announced CarPlay at the Geneva Auto Show. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out on TechCrunch. Dubbed “your next iPhone accessory”, it has the opportunity to change the way we experience our car, yet make the experience incredibly familiar.

Wearable technology (albeit inclusive of the devices that are manufactured to look like, you guessed it: phones) is at the forefront of every tech media show in the country.

Digital, interactive billboard advertising, which has been around for quite a while, is even getting a fresh approach thanks to interaction design against big data.

While consumers adopt new environments and experiences at an exponentially faster pace than ever, it isn’t about “mobile vs. desktop”; it’s mobile as it applies to everything, everywhere. The question then becomes: Will UX designers be able to adapt fast enough to meet the demand? And, in doing so, will we finally be in a world where speed and continuous refinement displaces slow and complete?