Monday, November 1, 2010

New frontiers - the smart phone

My students have been working on web pages, apps, and all things mobile. It is very much like the early days on the web, when we had to learn every possible browser interpretation of the pages you built. PhoneGap has made it easier to take some common files and convert them to different platforms. It still is not as easy as saving different file formats but it seems that we will see some conventions across smart phones soon. I have had some difficulty on the design side of mobile apps where many examples have used the interfaces put out by Apple or Android which work great but have little to do with designing for mobile marketing. There is little interest or initiative to use custom designs on the part of the students for apps that should reflect the web presence. Much of this stems from the type of CMS designs that are out there but little is changed to reflect the needs of the business and marketing of the company. As an educator I have resisted teaching students to use CM systems for this reason but also because students stop asking the questions of what does the client and user need from the site. I also despise the notion that designers are there to 'hang the drapes' after the building has been designed. (read my paper "A designer gets no respect") We can not be lazy in assuming decorating is somehow going to carry us through. We need to look at the entire system and experience of the app for the sake of the user. This does not mean we should reinvent the wheel, rather it means we need to know most of the possible plug-ins available for smart phones. Mobile developer Jonathan Stark noted that we need to take advantage of the sensors in the phone and I would include that we need to consider the relationship to the location of the phone and its inherit user. Games and entertainment apps defy this idea but considerations for locale even in games can make them relevant to the user and multiply the development of geographic specific games similar to augmented reality applications.