the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Mobile Design and Development

at long last a definitive work on mobile development

in Mobile , Monday, August 17, 2009

Mobile Design and Development, by Brian Fling, is hot of the presses at O’Reilly. In fact the publication date isn’t until next month, but it can be read in digital form at Safari Books.


I’ll say it right away, this is a 5-star, thoroughly excellent book. The biggest puzzle is why it has taken so long for somebody to write the definitive text in this space, but anyway, Brian Fling has nailed it.

Written in a deft and engaging style, with a touch of weary cynicism about the old operator-dominated order of the mobile space, and the legions of executives who neither get it, nor accept that anybody else does, this is an absolute must read for anybody getting into mobile development of any kind on any device. I really get the impression that every page has been obsessed over, that the author really, really cared about getting it as good as he could - which I’m afraid to say is not too common in the field of technical books, and especially some about the mobile web.

The author covers pretty much all aspects of building mobile applications, from a discussion of the ecosystem (which should be a real eye-opener to newcomers), to the all-important topic of context, to mobile-specific information architecture, usability, interaction and visual design. Despite the big changes heralded by the iPhone and it’s competitors, the book is right up to date, including discussion of WebOS and Android.

What I really like is the way he avoids sitting on the fence. Rather than surrender to the calls for lowest common denominator design, he encourages designers to be creative and take risks. In my opinion, there’s a strong argument for going out on a limb aiming to build an application people will upgrade their phone to be able to use, rather than be dragged down to level of 120 by 160 pixel monochrome devices - who’s owners are unlikely to be big data services users anyway.

Some parts could be a bit clearer. For example, when the author discusses the concept of teasing the content to improve user experience, I’m pretty sure I know what he’s talking about, but the illustration given (figure 7.6) is so unclear that I’m half sure it’s an editorial error. Or it could be a case of over-channeling the lauded, but in my opinion, unnecessarily opaque, Jesse James Garrett.  Surely an actual example with page screenshots would be a better way of getting the point across ?

I’ve been working in this field for over 7 years, and I’ve experienced most of the frustrations described in these pages. There isn’t actually much in this book which is really new to me, but seeing things spelled out so clearly is refreshing and encouraging, and provides some very timely reminders.

If you’re developing for any mobile platform, iPhone included, you will be well rewarded for the you invest in reading this book. Brian Fling has suffered so that you don’t have to ... well, not too much anyway.


Opposite of mobile ?

Stopped ? Static ? Immobile ? Microsoft ?

in Mobile , Friday, May 23, 2008

I frequently find myself writing about the mobile and web interface of Playyoo, and other services and products. But the fact is, Playyoo's mobile interface is a web site, styled for mobile phones, and Playyoo's "web site" can, at least in principle, be accessed using a mobile device powerful enough to support it. The distinction, clearly, is not in the technology, but in the type of user activity we're trying to support in each case. The mobile interface is strongly tuned to deliver the right content quickly, and to bypass conventional search mechanisms. The "web" interface is designed to support a more engaged. more complex set of activities, and in many ways is the auxiliary interface in Playyoo (as opposed to, say, mobile Facebook or mobile Flickr, which, whilst useful, are essentially heavily watered down token efforts). The term "mobile" can equally well describe the user's situation as well as the target device. But "web" is far less specific, and implicitly it means "the user is sitting in front of a computer with a large screen and a broadband connection". And more and more this is going to become a very shaky assumption. So what's the opposite of "mobile" ?

LG Viewty KU990 runs Flash Lite content

in Mobile , Wednesday, December 05, 2007

According to Mark Doherty, Adobe’s Developer Evangelist in EMEA for mobile, the latest mega-device from LG, the Viewty, can run Flash Lite 2.1 content This phone looks like both a geek magnet and a fashion victim must-have, and in my opinion makes the iPhone look a bit...old. I can't afford one, and anyway, I'm a incurable Sony Ericsson fanboy, but if had some spare cash around it would be far more likely to end up boosting LG's bottom line than Apple's.

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Mobile web design by Cameron Moll

in Mobile , Friday, September 28, 2007

A few weeks ago I downloaded and read Cameron Moll's new book on Mobile Web Design. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in getting to grips with the mobile web. mollbook.jpg Cameron Moll provides a concise, thoughtful and entertaining bird's eye view of a vast subject, and manages to provide sufficient detail to make it (very) worthwhile, without getting bogged down in details. He also provides a raft of useful links and references. It should appeal to developers, designers and business analysts alike. I wish I had time to write a more in-depth review, but just now time is very short. So get over to the book's web site and check out the free sample. Again, highly recommended. Five stars.

Wetware-based navigation

in Mobile , Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I was pointed at a recent post by Nicolas Nova this morning (thanks Kars) which advocates a low-tech - or no-tech - approach to location based services (games, in this case). This is something I've been pushing for a while. About 9 months ago, I started off a brief concept presentation with this:
Here & Now is an adaptable service which provides time & place sensitive information to mobile phone users in response to an SMS. It is a “fake location based service”, because it relies on the user telling the service where they are. In effect, we are actually bringing “human intelligence” into the system. Most LBS services proposed so far seem to be motivated more by a desire to use technology – engineer-led solutions – than a significant cost benefit to end users.
Most of the time, people know where they are. They don't need GPS when they're standing in the middle of Marbella looking for a good bar. Sure, guidance can be helpful, but really, how many people wander around a city centre using GPS navigation ? The hard parts of mobile LBS are relevance of search results and the user interface. GPS is a nice to have which simply enhances the input. So why the hang up on technology ? System design should embrace all components of the system, and in mobile location based services, a major component is the one holding the phone.
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