User experience strategy is a complex and involved science, made more so in the multiple platform mindset of modern computing. Where once, the strategy only varied in semantics between specific software purposes and demographics, there is now a wide array of variables which can make strategies far less encompassing and widely-effective as they once were.
The biggest concern in this disparity in user experience strategy is that of mobile versus web, which are the two most rapidly growing platforms of software delivery and deployment. Gaming is trailing a slightly distant third. These strategies are so different and yet so similar at the same time, that it can be easy to mistake one for another, or to get tenets of them easily mixed. This can be quite calamitous. Still others will continue to assume that these things are just “the same thing” and try to apply a global strategy to them both, and expect it to work.
So, what are the differences in user experience strategy between mobile and web? Let’s take a little look at the platforms, their limitations, virtues and basic natures, and see if this can’t illustrate this clearly.
Mobile has undergone an interesting evolution in the past 20 years or so. We must first consider how the current concept of a mobile device came to be. In the year 1993, there were rudimentary cellular phones, there were portable music devices, portable organizers, and portable gaming devices. The first, massive laptops were gaining popularity as well. Over time, these things began to merge into multi-purpose devices, but not in one, focused pattern. Phones absorbed music players, organizers absorbed gaming and computing to a degree. Eventually, as technology allowed, the PDA and cell phone merged into the modern smart mobile device.
First of all, it’s a rather genetically blended device with a lot of very disparate purposes behind it.
As a result, unlike a unified computing platform such as a PC (designed for multi-purpose by default) or web (designed to be a generality), each function tends to be viewed as a discrete system within a package, rather than a function of a grander scheme. As a result, due to user preconceptions, this rigidity and compartmentalization has to be considered when it comes to mobile UX strategies.
Other issues to consider are interface methodologies, where mobile is very touch-oriented. Touch technology is a nuisance, so making it less irritating to use is a major strategic point to focus on. There are also the aesthetic challenges of reduced screen real estate as well. Until cloud computing sees its full potential, there’s something to be said for limited space and computing power in handhelds as well, though they are getting better.
Web is a very different animal, and while its evolution is interesting, we can’t really trace current strategy to its origins. This is because the web isn’t actually a platform, despite being addressed as such in modern thinking. It’s actually just a medium, a communications channel through which various platforms can be delivered, or which platforms may use. SaaS, or software as a service, is a platform. VM systems such as Flash and Java are platforms. The web itself is not. It is the stuff of platforms but not one itself.
As a result, beyond increasingly refined standards of base development, the web is less strict and less limited in some ways. With models like HTML5 and AJAX allowing sophisticated onboard systems in web design, web can now act like software more easily. With the power of Flash and Java improving recently, it can also act like a media delivery platform or gaming platform easily.
So, the strategy with web is more concerned with targeting demographics, making purposes very clearly visible, and increasing ease of usability and being light on bandwidth and browser strain. The strategy is fare more creative and artistic than mobile, and for the most part, the technical limitations are vastly less or at the least, less constricting.
This is just a quick glance, but it should outline some of the differences between mobile and web user experience strategy, and why they must be handled as their own sciences altogether.