19 January 2013, 10.34 PM
Imagine you’re reading the delivery menu for your favorite American restaurant, and you want to order a steak. To your utter shock and dismay, you find that it’s not on the menu. You’ve had steak before when visiting the restaurant in person, so you wonder why you’re not seeing it on the delivery menu.
Someone in charge decided that Americans have poor eating habits, and if they are not willing to come to the restaurant in person for the full experience, then they are likely to be sitting at home on a couch in front of the television, and are not fit to have the meal. You enter into absolute food rage and never return to the restaurant again.
Having too many features may be just as harmful as cutting them down, as you can see when viewing The New York Times website on mobile.
You decide what set of features and interactions are necessary for a perfect user experience. It’s especially important on mobile, when you try to cut features to make the interaction as easy and seamless as possible, basically making assumptions and decisions for your users. Nothing is more frustrating than being deprived of the ability to make your own choices.
It’s critical to put the users’ needs first. If mobile gets less features by default, customers can potentially be left without the means to engage with your actual product. People perform all kinds of actions while using a wide range of devices. 25% of mobile users engage in online shopping through their phones and tablets. Would you ever think that every three minutes (within the UK) a vehicle is purchased using the eBay mobile app (PDF)? Tiffany & Co. also noted a significant rise in sales and traffic after launching their mobile app — would you think that people buy diamonds on mobile?
The main focus should go to delivering great experiences within the feature set you’re offering on desktop, not limiting them. While some features appear as unnecessary, you cannot assume that they aren’t without proper testing and real interaction. As Aral Balkan points out:
Mobile isn’t an independent creature — it’s an experience we’re creating. We could not possibly accommodate all devices that are currently available. The ideal situation would be to have one, uniform experience of the brand, served according to device.
It all comes down to the most crucial part of Web design — content. Being perfectly aware of goals that you’re trying to achieve and leveraging content strategy is essential for creating cross-universe compatible experiences. While we try to tailor, cut and paste content that we think is essential on mobile, again we are trapping ourselves in false assumptions of users’ context (by choosing what’s the most appropriate piece of information they are potentially looking for) and finally ending up making mobile less compelling and bereft of features.
That’s why we should consider designing content out rather than canvas in. Being focused on content from the very beginning will help keep you from being trapped within visual limitations that come with the wide variety of available devices, and make the copy usable regardless of the platform it is being served on.