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The Myth of Mobile Context

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately around mobile design and mobile learning.

One of the recurring themes I keep hearing is that mobile users want less. Fewer features. Shorter videos. Simpler interfaces.

There’s a mythical archetype of the mobile user: distracted, on-the-go, tactical. But this archetype doesn’t match reality.

The Mobile User

Are mobile users on-the-go, distracted and looking for quick bites of information? Sure, sometimes they are. But they’re also waiting in the airport for a delayed plane, and sitting on the couch relaxing at the end of the day, and reading in bed.

The only thing mobile tells you about the user is the type of device they’re on. It’s not even an accurate descriptor of screen size anymore, because the iPad is a mobile device, too.

Same Content, Different Device

Given all that, it’s a huge mistake to assume that a mobile visitor somehow wants less - less information and fewer features - just because they’re on a mobile device.

I’m not saying mobile visitors don’t want less. I’m saying they don’t want less just because they’re mobile.

In The Mobile Context, Stephen Hay writes…

In other words, does content really need to change for a mobile context, or do we simply need better content all across the board? I bet the desktop site would be better if they just chucked it and used the “mobile” site for everything.

I think Stephen’s on to something.

Most people don’t want to watch an hour-long video. They don’t want to read boring corporate mission statements and wade through buzzword laden paragraphs.

They want useful, entertaining, easy-to-navigate content. No matter what device they’re on.