This talk was given at the PSU Web Conference 2013.
Not so many years ago, prevailing wisdom extolled the uniqueness of the mobile user context. This drove the creation of curated, mobile-specific user experiences such as m-dot sites and native mobile apps. In the past couple of years, the favor of the web community has swung sharply away from these mobile-specific experiences and toward responsive web design, predicated on the idea that all users want access to the same content and functionality, organized and accessed in the same way, regardless of what device they're using. It's a compelling concept backed by smart, inventive, future-aware techniques. However, focusing on technique alone makes it easy to lose sight of the human user in the real world. We were wrong in the past to speak of the mobile context as though it were monolithic, simple, and deterministic. But we're just as wrong today to ignore the ways in which user contexts can drive meaningful differences in user needs, expectations, and behaviors. In this session, we'll examine the physical, technological, mental, and social dimensions that define a range of mobile contexts, and how they argue for a broader and more flexible approach to engaging with our users.