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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.


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from Brian Fling on Mon, August 17, 2009 - 4:43

Awesome! Thank you so much for the kind words and the great write-up!

And thanks for the great feedback on Figure 7-6. We struggled to get a some of the IA diagrams to fit on the page legibly, but I think you could be right that what it really needs is a more thorough explanation. I’ll be sure to include a more in-depth explanation on the book site ( once it is up.


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