I recently acquired a Blackberry Pearl.
It’s a nice little device that doesn’t absolutely scream corporate whore but lets me carry around a lot of the essentials of my life in my (overloaded) purse. It also has perhaps the smallest screen in production on a device capable of truly accessing the web.
While I love having access to all the minutia of my life in an instant. (Third oldest niece’s middle name? Coming right up.) Using it to find stuff on the web drives me half nutty. A simple look-up of store hours or a phone number is a mess for anything I don’t already have book-marked. Google’s presentation of paid and then “yellow pages” generated search results ahead of the store’s actual site is beyond annoying. (It’s also very difficult to distinguish between the paid and not paid results — at least in the standard blackberry web browser.)
I’ve been thinking that it’s about the tiny size of the screen.
Even in my planning for the weather information of our website I’ve been focused on the getting it all to work in the tiny bit of screen that the Pearl affords. But I had some hints that there was more to the matter than just the form factor. I decided that the left hand listing column of single data points should be moved up in the HTML file so that they would appear first when you get to the main weather page because exactly how warm/cold it is and how much rain has fallen are the two bits of information I most need when I’m not at home.
This morning Peter Merholz at Adaptive path writes about designing for mobility and hits it in one.
His key statements are:
“The thing that’s interesting about designing for mobile isn’t the form of the device. It’s that the device comes with you.”
“We don’t want to explore cyberspace when we’re out-and-about. We want to quickly get a key piece of information, or make a key connection. We want key functionality at our fingertips.”
The differences in the environment in which we are using the device/web dictate differences in how we want the web to behave. It’s not about the device. It’s about the task appropriate for the context.
Even a laptop with a monster screen used in the Avis parking lot of the airport should display the basic information such as the “store locater” or “map” navigation buttons at the top of the page. Because we don’t want to browse the selection of books at Borders we want to find the nearest Borders store.
It’s clarifies what has been bothering me about using the web via Blackberry and why it is that I am trying to do with our own weather pages isn’t quite working out. I have a sneaking feeling that I’m about to discover that simply rearranging the HTML (to sort out the load order) and making a second CSS file (to address the constraints of the mobile device form factor) is not going to be enough. Mobile implies a different set of tasks and information needs that can’t be addressed by rearranging the boxes on the page.