This is the last article in my series on mobile that deals with the physical devices. We may think that mobile devices are quite amazing, and yes they have come a long way in the past few years. New technology pushing the boundaries of size, lightness, speed, and usefulness. Yet these devices do have their drawbacks and limitations. When crafting new layouts or making interface decisions for your church website, these must be considered in conjunction with the many other new factors mobile devices introduce.
While the use of mobile devices continues to rise, and the speed at which the hardware is improved upon; the space is still very new. The drawback is not always the device, but the general public's ability to operate them Like the desktop computer revolution, it will take many years for people to get proficient at using them.
In previous articles I mentioned some of the more obvious limitations, which are the device's screen size and their sometimes limited connectivity. The fact that a mobile device is so small and can be easily transported makes it easy for you to go out of range of wireless and even cellular connectivity. Screen size also plays a role if you have a page that is coded to be a specific width, and users have to zoom and pan around to read your content.
Touch interface has given rise to the NUI, or Natural User Interface. This first appeared on websites with Google Maps. Previously, when you wanted to shift the display a map website, you clicked on an arrow. Google Maps was the first that allowed you to click, drag, and move the map in the direction you wanted. Interacting with devices and the websites they display with a flurry of swipes, pinches, and taps is a new concept and for the next few years will require a learning curve.
Many websites utilize a feature where you hover your mouse over an element and something appears. This is most commonly used for navigation mechanisms, with menu items flying out as you hover over the parent topic. Without the proper planning, a desktop website may be nearly impossible to use if it relied too heavily on those gestures. Additionally, any informational tool tips that display on hover may also be lost. It is a mechanism that website creators have used for many years, and without the proper precautions, may easily frustrate a mobile.
The last obstacle to using a mobile device is that inputting text is difficult. Typing is a nightmare when you need to use a touchscreen keyboard. The ability to make lower and uppercase letters is difficult, let alone switching keyboard layouts for numbers and symbols, and a third layout for yet another set of lesser-used symbols. Some tablet users navigated this constraint and use a BlueTooth keyboard, but their small form factor still makes typing difficult.
Action Item: Consider screen size, any special gestures needed to use your website, no hover states for menus, and requiring fewer form fields when crafting a mobile experience. There are many ways using a phone or tablet is different than a desktop computer; some good, some bad. Yet all must be factored in when thinking about how to best serve your audience using a mobile device.
Photo courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net