Smart Mobile Design

Smart Mobile Design

February 25, 2016

Over 350 million square meters of glass for touch screens were sold in 2015. This sounds like an esoteric glass industry fact, but the actual significance of this is that during 2014, the average person in the world purchased an A4 page sized sheet of glass. Unless we’re talking about extremely specific collectors, it is likely that this glass was attached to a cellular phone or a tablet. This fact proves what we already know: the penetration of various mobile devices into our lives is complete, and not about to disappear in the near future.

How does this affect the world of design?

One of the decisive elements in the world of mobile device design is the need for flexibility. The current market contains many types, models, manufacturers, and especially sizes of mobile devices. Adapting a design to each and every one of them is unrealistic, therefore a good mobile design would be one that could easily adapt and look good on a wide range of screens.

So how does mobile design differ from the design of ‘regular’ computers?

Unlike regular computers where interaction with the interface takes place via the mouse or touch surface, the main use of touch devices is through direct manipulation – directly touching the interface, without using mediators such as a mouse or keyboard. Additionally, the usage changes according to the way the device is held and used.

A 2013 study conducted by Steven Hoober examined the way in which mobile devices were used, and came to the following conclusions:

  • Direction: 94% of mobile device users hold the mobile vertically, and not horizontally.
  • Use: 85% of users hold the device in one hand, controlling it only with their thumb or with the other hand. Only 15% hold and use the device simultaneously with both hands.

Why is this important?

In order to design we need to first understand the relationship between the user and the device (and no, this doesn’t mean the spot you reserve for your mobile near your pillow at night).

If we assume that the user uses mainly his or her thumb for manipulation – this means that the touch areas need to be large enough. If they hold the device with one hand, we’ll prefer not to place touch areas in the upper left corner. If we understand the distance between the user and the screen, we’ll know how large or small to make each element.

The next diagram describes the touch areas that are easy or difficult to touch on different devices (red marks the less accessible touch areas and green marks the relatively accessibly areas):

How to cope with physical disabilities?

Disabilities require a new way of thinking about screen structure and how to organize the elements within it.

Action buttons and important elements will usually be located at the bottom of the screen to ensure easy access.

An acceptable solution for the menu, for instance, is a floating button in a permanent location (such as the FAB button).

Another example is the use of side scrolling (left and right) instead of long downwards scrolling. This is a way to spread comparative information for more convenient viewing on a mobile device.

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive design is a uniform design that takes a number of screens and a number of sizes into consideration. In today’s internet design it is acceptable to design flexible formats built on a code that adapts itself to the width of the screen. This approach means that the same design will apply to each screen, from a wide, tabletop screen to a mobile screen. The change includes enlarging or shrinking elements, reorganizing them, and sometimes hiding them while presenting other, adapted ones.

Adapting to screen size is important both to content and from the point of view of design. The questions to be asked are: what goes in above the scroll line (the first full screen the user is exposed to)? Does the design also look good after shrinking, or is an adapted solution required? Are there technical limitations that need to be taken into consideration? Is the user able to type comfortably? Is the user able to easily use the video or sound?

Availability vs. safe use

Currently the use of mobiles is extensive and on the rise, although not in all fields, and not among all users.

The ‘bravest’ users are the Millennials – those born between the years 1980 – 2000.

What is considered a brave action? Financial transactions such as transferring money and acquisitions, legal signatures and authorizations, and also long and information-heavy processes. In 2014, some 78% of this age group testified to carrying out financial transactions on their mobile.

In older age ranges, the overall percentage of use, and especially of complex actions, is much lower. Among the reasons cited by users who don’t usually carry out these actions on the mobile are worries regarding security level, and low technology credibility (interfaces that crash while an action is taking place, not receiving an indication of action confirmation).

A prominent example of the mobile’s entry into the field of consumerism could be seen this year in the figures published following Thanksgiving and Black Friday in the USA. This year, 60% of all online purchases were made from mobile devices. Also, the average purchase amount through mobile devices came to $117, up 5% from the previous year.

If in the past users hesitated to make complex use of their mobiles or use them to take any ‘serious’ steps, it seems that this hesitation has now lessened, and the mobile’s huge availability breaks down all barriers. Other characteristics that contributed to increased mobile use are growing screen sizes, as well as the quality and availability of internet access.

What next?

Will the complete control of screens and touch screens continue in future as well?

Today we find it difficult to imagine public transport without Facebook, the dating world without Tinder, and our lunch without Instagram. So it is easy to assume that screens will remain close to us in future also, but it is hard to predict how they will look or behave. Will more devices use the speech functions? Will wearable computers become a significant part of the market? Will IOT (Internet of Things) integrate into our daily lives?

Or maybe screens will remain the dominant part of the market but will become more flexible / thin / thick?

These are the deliberations we deal with afresh on every UI design project in order to try and create the best content that is most suitable to the specific client and product. One of our main challenges is bridging the time gap between product characterization, design, development, and the date of its launch on the market. We must think what will be good a year from now, as opposed to what is good for today, or what was good a year ago.


שלחו אלינו קו"ח