The Evolution of Mobile UX Design

Evolution of mobile ux design.

As a Creative Director at Sourcebits, I recently spoke at Bangalore’s Design Day, a curated learning event for designers. In my talk, I discussed the evolution of mobile ux design. This blog post will take you through the history of mobile communication, from primitive writing on cave walls to the current era of wearable technology.

Old-School Analog: Cave Writing to Newspapers

Communication amongst humans started with static, primitive cave wall writing, which was the primary way information was transferred from one generation to the next. Clay tablets, scrolls and then books made written communication more accessible, but not really mobile. With the advent of the printing press and newspapers, the mobile user experience changed as people were able to read articles while on the move. The newspaper was the first user experience designed specifically for mobility. Using information hierarchy (a user experience design term for how people process info – where their eyes go first), readers scan headlines to get a summary of news or read deeper to get more info. Since then the transfer of information has only grown more sophisticated and more portable.

Phone Phenomenon

Telegraphs allowed for faster direct communication than the postal service, but the introduction of telephone lines marks the next big changes in mobile communication. Remember when you had a phone in your home – with a chord into the wall? Someone called you from their home, office or a payphone. If they didn’t reach you, they left a message on an answering machine – which you didn’t check until you got home. That was the norm until recently. “Landlines” have rapidly been replaced by mobile phones. People can now be reached anytime, almost anywhere in the world. And many people send text messages vs. voice calls, redefining the mobile user experience yet again.

Cell phone ownership chart.

Smartphone Surge

Today more than half of Americans have a smartphone, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. With music, news, SMS, video and millions of apps at their fingertips, information has never been more accessible. But the increased use of smartphones and resulting overflow of content has led to a very crowded digital space. The novelty has worn off, and people tend to be more selective about the quality and relevancy of information they now receive. The self-selection of content creates cultural silos that can be difficult to overcome.

Smartphone ownership chart.

Differentiate with Design

With literally millions of applications available – and many of them providing the same service with just slight differences – the intense competition for user attention has grown exponentially. So how do you differentiate your app or idea from the crowded market?

Design is the differentiator flag.

Design becomes the differentiator. When creating a user experience, make the design consistent and legible across all platforms and in all locations and lighting. Additionally, a truly strong design should communicate not just the information hierarchy, but the entire ideology and purpose behind your application.

Wearables: The Future of Mobile

The future of mobile is by no means certain, but right now we’re on the fast track with wearable technology and there’s no turning back. The current goal of wearable tech is to bring the relevant information straight to the user while simultaneously cutting down on interaction with the device, making the retrieval of information “glanceable.” Forrester Research conducted a consumer survey and found the most popular wearable locations are clipped onto clothing (29%), wrist (28%) and clipped on shoe (18%). Glasses, jewelrey and earbud/headphones all had 12% interest.

Chart with popular wearable locations for wearable tech.

Google Glass, the rumored iWatch, the Moto360 watch, and the Pebble Steel SmartWatch are all major players in the wearable marketplace, but they have yet to take off in the public sphere. This leaves the future open to new and exciting possibilities. Last summer we did a redesign of Google Glass, and this fall we put together a popular iWatch concept. (You can also check out our recent blog post on the possibilities of wearable tech, including our work with Vuzix to build apps for the M100 smart glasses.)

At Sourcebits we’re tremendously excited for the next evolution of mobile technology, and we’ll continue sharing our predictions, innovations and developments.

Have any questions about the mobile UX evolution, or an idea for an app?

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