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3 Ways You Need to Change Your Approach When Switching to Mobile Development [VIDEO]

| July 22, 2014
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We recently sat down with our mobile strategist Mike Mace to ask how developers coming from the desktop world need to change their approach for mobile development. Here’s what Mike had to say.

Stop trusting your instincts

The development community has been working with the desktop for 20 years longer than we’ve been working with mobile devices. We know where people tend to get stuck, because we’ve seen it happen thousands of times.

But the instincts we’ve developed don’t carry over to mobile. People react very differently on mobile devices than our instincts tell us they’re going to react, which makes testing even more imperative. Bottom line: don’t trust your instincts.

Design for distracted users

Mobile users are frequently in environments (on a bus, at a ballgame, walking on a busy sidewalk) that prevent the users from giving their full attention to your app.

To compound the problem, the devices themselves have dozens of distractions. Sometimes these distractions are competing for the same kind of attention, such as other games. Sometimes the distractions are just interruptions like text messages or social app notifications. (We hear that people occasionally still get calls on their phones too.)

Doing a mobile app is like planning a birthday party for a bunch of 4-year-olds….You have to keep things moving along all the time.

Ultra-distracted users have shorter attention spans and a lower tolerance for wait times or usability problems. If you want their attention, keep things moving.

Don’t play Russian roulette with your apps

Many web application developers have adopted the methodology of launching early with a bare bones—perhaps even embarrassing—product, and iterating quickly based on feedback. This works fine when you’re in complete control of the release, and can iterate whenever you like.

But on mobile, your release cycle is much slower due to the app approval process. While you’re waiting for your update to go live, users are still rating your app. So testing and iteration need to happen earlier in the process. Instead of shipping early and iterating often, you want to test early and test often before you ship.

Mobile developers, what advice do you have for fellow developers whose experience might be rooted in the desktop world? Or what mistakes have you seen others make?

To help you plan and run your next mobile study, we’ve put together a handy Mobile User Testing Kit. Download it here!