Matching Data To Device And Circumstance
By Mike Masnick, Wed Sep 29 22:15:00 GMT 2004

As users are becoming increasingly mobile, and increasingly comfortable with making information work as part of their daily routine (rather than allocating time for accessing information), it will start to change how content is presented.

A short blurb at E-Media Tidbits notes that Wi-Fi is changing how some content is presented. Apparently, the web site AllRecipes realized that users were no longer printing out recipes, but rather were dragging a laptop into the kitchen to read the recipe directly off the screen via Wi-Fi. With that in mind, it changed its web site design to better accommodate a "live" cook -- making sure entire recipes can fit on a single screen to avoid having to muck up a keyboard or a mouse with whatever food is being prepared. Other websites have started to do the same, most popularly with sites designed to involve users during a television show.

While it is interesting to see how Wi-Fi is changing the design of web sites, the same concepts need to expand out to the handset world as well. With ongoing attempts to access full web content on phones or to create custom apps for content delivery, it still seems like very little thought is being put into the way in which people are actually using the device when accessing content, and making sure that the content is well designed to fit both the device and the circumstance.

This isn't just a question of creating "mobile content," but recognizing the best way to fit that content into what the person is doing at the time. For example, recognizing that, if someone is driving, a voice interface is going to make much more sense than looking at a screen and pushing the keypad. If someone is on the go, but needs to look up quick information (an address or a phone number, for example) it shouldn't require extra scrolling. The important aspect is to realize that data on a mobile phone for the sake of data on a mobile phone isn't going to be accepted if that data is too much of a pain to use. While it may not always be easy to understand how the end users will be using the data, more thought is clearly needed about this aspect of mobile content design. Content that displays in a way that makes sense for the user is going to find itself being used much more than simply dumping a slimmed down web site onto a handset.