In the spring of 2007, I co-lead a project that explored Internet access on mobile devices. At that time, uptake for mobile Internet content in the U.S. was dismally low. Recruiting participants that engaged with the mobile Internet for more than a few minutes once or twice a week proved extremely challenging. In order to collect the type of data needed to inform the design process and improve the user experience, we designed a PC Internet deprivation research study. Eight lucky participants used only their mobile phone to access the Internet for four days.
I co-wrote this case-study about the project with Mirjana Spasojevic of the Nokia Research Lab in Palo Alto and Pekka Isomursu of Nokia Design and presented it recently at CHI in Florence, Italy. The case study describes details of the research methodology as well as design insights and implications for development of mobile applications and services.
A lot has changed in the year since this study; the release of the iPhone in June of 2007 and Google’s Android platform in November 2007 were watershed moments for the mobile Internet – improving the experience and opening up opportunities for usage that simply didn’t exist before.
Despite these advances, I still believe most Internet experiences on mobile devices are broken and compromised, overburdened by interaction models and metaphors from the PC that simply don’t work on small devices. Yet so much of how we understand the Internet – and computing – is based on the PC legacy.
What has been exciting me most about mobile these days is that exact challenge… figuring out what metaphors and models to keep and what to leave behind as we try to prism Internet content through a myriad of devices.