Josh Clark: Busting Mobile Myths

by Luke Wroblewski February 8, 2012

In his Mobile Myths presentation, Josh Clark walked through a number of common mobile misperceptions. Here are my notes from his presentation.

Mobile Users are Rushed & Distracted

  • We started with an over-simplified almost condescending view of mobile users. But there’s lots of different modes of mobile use.
  • Fast, distracted use is a big part of mobile but it’s not the only use. For example 40% of people use in the bathroom.
  • The assumption everyone is hurried leads us to strip out important features.
  • Example: Alibris is differentiated by selling out-of-print & rare books but they stripped this feature out of the mobile experience. Intentionally. Because they assumed people would not make commitments to pricey books online. At the same time, eBay mobile sells thousands of cars on mobile.
  • 25% of adult mobile users in the US rarely ever use the desktop to get online. That’s 8% of US adults that exclusively use the mobile Web. They need access to your core functionality.

Mobile is Less

  • Mobile is not just a companion to the desktop.
  • In reality we do everything we can on a mobile device like writing long emails even though it may be painful.
  • Don’t confuse context with intent. Being on a small screen doesn’t change intent. It’s like an author says: “this is the paperback, let’s take out a chapter.”
  • Pay attention to the transition between services not just within a single property. The seams between properties and products matter.
  • Mobile can be organized differently or adjusted. But the core content and features should be available on desktop & mobile.
  • In many cases, mobile is not less but more. Mobile has superpowers.
  • QR codes had 400% growth in the top magazines. Overwhelming they are associated with ads in these situations.
  • QR codes are called “robot barf” because they are opaque -it’s not clear what they will do before you can them.
  • Too often the results of scanning QR codes are not worth the effort. We’re training people to not expect good experiences after scanning. We need to give people good reasons to engage with these services.
  • Ralph Lauren used pictures of their brand in their QR codes and saw a 3x increase over plain QR codes.
  • Make it clear what is behind your QR codes. It can motivate people to scan.

Mobile is All About Apps

  • There’s a lot we can do with phones that isn’t tied to native operating system capabilities.
  • We are still an SMS and text culture. Text messages work well for engagement. SMS has a great response rate. Currently people look at all text messages they get. The channel has not been poisoned yet so it still works.
  • Apps vs. Web: the mobile web is becoming more capable but we still have an app culture. Doing something (games, repetitive functions) is associated with apps. Looking things up, more “one time” tasks are associated with Web.
  • You can reach a wider audience with the Web, no download required is better for one time decisions.
  • When something has app-like qualities, it’s better served as an app.
  • Apps have really rich, polished interactions. They move away from buttons and old interaction styles. Touch gestures can make things better, not just different. That’s an important distinction.

You’re Just Building a Digital Product

  • You are not building a digital product. You’re building a brand/service.
  • This is only the beginning: we’ll only have more channels as we move forward. We need to focus on the service you offer above all the channels.
  • Build a robust back-end service and think of apps as windows into your content.
  • Think of your content & features as water. Adapting to the vessels they are put into.
  • Seamless content across devices is becoming an expectation. Services like Netflix & Kindle are driving this expectation.
  • Don’t think app, think service.
  • Services like iCloud create a world where people want their content everywhere.
  • It’s not a product it’s a platform. Whether brand or technical platform.
  • Eveywhereness is a design nightmare. Designers don’t like infinity -it’s a hard goal to reach.
  • Thinking of common mindsets is a good way to break things down.
  • Micro-tasking, local, and bored. Micro-tasking is in & out and one of the things that drive common mis-perceptions about mobile uses.
  • Local scenarios can help you find stuff near you but it can also interact with your immediate surroundings. Shopper app rearranges your grocery list based on the layout of the store you are in. WordLens translates text in front of you. IntoNow identifies the TV show you are currently watching based on audio stream. These are all "local" use cases.
  • I’m Bored is I have attention to spend. The mainstream is now looking to software for not only entertainment but even emotional connections as well. These are sweet spots for apps: long form entertainment & task-driven workflow.
  • Apps are an accessory for phones now. They’re a personal expression of you.
  • Allow people to create representations of themselves. Whether aspiration, prior, or current reflections.