Differences between mobile UX and desktop UX
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Published on March 8, 2015
When adapting the user experience (UX) of apps that started on the desktop, or updating websites originally created for desktops and notebook computers, to enable them to perform well on mobile devices, many developers tend to think only about the reduced screen size. While the reduced screen real estate certainly impacts the UX, and is an important consideration in mobile design, there are many other elements that should also be considered. The process of simply trying to make an existing site or app smaller doesn’t provide a good user experience.
Creating a successful mobile app or website, whether being built from scratch or as a revision of one that is existing, the user experience design process should start with user scenarios. Understanding who will be using it, when it will be used, where it is being accessed, along with the needs and motivations help to shape what is included in the mobile version. This applies to the user experience of both apps along with mobile websites, whether they are being created as a dedicated mobile site, or as a responsive design.
Another key UX consideration when designing for mobile is how much time users will be spending on the app or website. Mobile devices are often used to gather smaller bits of information. For example, a user on a mobile device may visit an airline website to check the status of a flight to determine if it is on-time, while they may visit the same website from a desktop computer when booking a flight. The same user, visiting the same site, yet in two entirely different use case scenarios. The role of the user experience designer is to understand these needs and to help direct product management and development teams to meet the needs of the users on all devices and platforms. These considerations are covered in many of the user experience courses offered at American Graphics Institute.
This list of UX considerations for mobile development is just scratching the surface. Many additional factors, such as those associated with touch input, and bandwidth considerations also impact mobile devices. Yet it’s important to recognize that mobile UX is much more than reducing the size of the display area.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.