Archive for the ‘mobile user experience’ Tag
Innovative thinkers are always finding new ways to leverage the power of the mobile device. We’ve seen the screen used for a flashlight, the device used as a compass and lots of other novelty oriented uses (just take a look at the iPhone’s app store). But now a professor of engineering has been able to use the software and hardware features of a mobile device to create a microscope capable of checking for diseases.
The New York Times article cites an example where a user could place a slide of blood under a cheap external hardware setup on the device and the mobile device’s camera could image that blood. The image could be sent from the device to a doctor for analysis.
I really think we’ll start to see more of these types of applications, where the device’s capability is enhanced with bolt-on solutions capable of exploiting the mobility of the human operator and the device and extending the power of the hardware and software.
Mobile learning can truly benefit from thinking along the same lines, especially if you consider the number of field deployed workers who operate several different electronic tools, sensors to diagnose problems with equipment etc. Using the device as a central hub for those types of sensors could really make life easier for those types of employees. And the networked communication of a mobile device offers the ability to receive real-time feedback on procedures, and training on the spot for those who operate sensors and diagnostic equipment.
According to this report from MediaPost (a web site devoted to advertising and mobility) mobile web usage continues to grow, which we knew. However, the report also goes on to talk about the frustrations many users experience with the mobile web. You can see the actual stats cited from Nielsen here.
Most users are probably frustrated by the “mobile web” because the web they are viewing is often the same web that’s formatted for the desktop and desktop browsers. Many of us who’ve tried to load a desktop site on a mobile browser know how poorly mobile browsers render those sites. Often you get a column of content with everything running vertically, and trying to find a link or read the text is so difficult that we just give up. Safari on the iPhone and Opera do better, but they are still not ideal for mobile users. And one thing that should be noted is that it’s not that difficult to build a mobile site. First of all, your users probably don’t want everything you are offering on your desktop site, especially if you have a lot of links and navigation. You may be able to work with a subset of content and navigation, so that makes it easier for the developer. But even if you have to provide most or all of your navigation, you can format it for mobile consumption so your users will stay on your site find the information they need. Some helpful development resources are shown below:
Great book about mobile web design:
Some information to get you up on terminology and history:
Platform Specific Sites:
iPhone and Safari:
https://developer.apple.com/safari/ Note: Link is on the right side, “Safari on iPhone and iPod Touch”
tips and pointers: http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/iphone-development-12-tips
simulator (will show you what it looks like in the iPhone frame, doesn’t mimic the touch, gestures, etc.) http://www.testiphone.com/
Blackberry development program area – http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/
AND I WOULDN’T BE TRUE TO MY MOBILE DEV ROOTS WITHOUT FLASH/FLASH LITE – which should be picking up some significant steam as it gains support on most platforms. It’s still my personal favorite, but that’s the Flash Developer in me coming out, I’ve also done work on the other platforms above.
I keep reading and hearing more and more about how location and location based services will be the the next big wave in mobility. Many devices already come equipped with GPS antennas and others are able to approximate the user’s current location through triangulation (measuring distance by calculating signal strength from multiple cell towers or WiFi hot spots). And with companies like Garmin teaming up with Asus to deliver smartphones, you know the industry is getting very serious about leveraging the location of mobile users.
For a moment, let’s put aside the privacy issues associated with using one’s location (there are many issues there, but industry sentiment is moving toward a model where the user determines whether he or she wants to be “found” at a particular moment). Let’s focus on how we can use location in our training and education.
There are already a number of training examples involving learner location and mobile devices. One example that comes to mind is MIT Environmental detectives. There are also a number of tour-like applications for museums and galleries where location is used to inform learners about exhibits, etc. But I think location will be used in new and different ways. For example, we can take an employee’s location and provide him or her with active directions during an orientation period. We could provide an individualized map to each learner to help them find the people and places they need to visit.
We could also use location services to alert a coach to a learner’s location, so the coach could actively engage the learner as they enter a relevant physical space. Think about this scenario: You are a new employee at an auto plant. You are learning a new job and as you come into the space where you will learn your new job, an expert (coach) notices your location and contacts you immediately easing your apprehensive state of mind and providing you with a series of video tips about the job delivered to your mobile device. The coach informs you that you can reach out to her at any point in the process for feedback.
I’m sure you will have other ideas, this is just one scenario that comes to mind for me. Just think about how you may use location as a teacher or trainer in the future. The trends point to a market filled with location aware devices in the next few years.
Google and Apple appear to have different outlooks on mobile application development, and those differences will certainly have an impact on how we consume mobile content. According to this BusinessWeek.com article, Two Mobile Software Visions, each company is preparing to leverage their strengths with a distribution model that corresponds with those strengths.
Apple is very strong in the native app market, where it’s App Store is a marketplace for all sorts of applications. Users download the applications to the iPhone and take advantage of that native functionality, storage and performance that comes with being on the device itself.
Google is very strong in the web-based application market and it domintates the search advertising that goes along with it’s web focus. Google is betting that Web-based applications that use the strength of networks and servers will be the future of mobile content consumption.
But both companies overlap in certain places. iPhone applications often link out to external services and resources and Google’s Android applications are native on the Android open source operating system (Google also has an Android market place, much like the Apple App Store). Google plans to push Web-based applications in the months and years to come and Apple will probably continue to push it’s App Store applications. Ultimately, it comes down to money. Apple makes approx 30% on each application it sells from the App Store and Google makes billions of dollars with it’s ad revenue from search and Google Ads.
As mobile consumers, we will have to make choices about how we want to consume our content. In the world of education, much of the content resides on the Web. Most of our Learning Management Systems are web-based and offer limited functionality offline. However, it can be argued that eLearning really got of the starting blocks with CD roms, which are more representative of the native-app model in my opinion. If the evolution of eLearning has been from native pc applications (CDs and disk based) to Web based applications, the question is, will that be the way that mobile learning goes? If so, you might say that Apple is re-hashing the hold model and Google is pushing the new model. BUT, I don’t think it’s that simple.
I think that Apple is leveraging the strengths of an on-device application in an age where connectivity to mobile networks is still spotty in many places, while allowing for connectivity when and where applicable and desired. Apple is also selling the iPhone as a platform and pushing too much to “the cloud” would be somewhat self-defeating. Google is setting itself in a position of strength in the Web-based market because that’s where it’s strengths are and it doesn’t produce hardware, so a physical platform is not attractive to Google.
We will see mobile learning in a variety of forms, some will be native applications and others will be Web applications. If I had to bet though, I would favor the Web-based model because it’s the most natural fit for the current eLearning architecture. Re-purposing your Web-based LMS courses to run on a mobile browser will be an easier transition for companies and learning institutions. There are also more developers with the skill sets required to build mobile Web applications since those skills are in many ways a subset of traditional Web development. More developers along with ease of transition will make the Web-based application the winner in my opinion. Both the iPhone OS and Google’s Android have good Web experiences on their respective mobile devices, so both should continue to be platforms that we will target for mobile learning. Overall, I think most content will be Web-based.