Want to hear a spoiler for the whole blog post? The best way to design a successful product or service is to put your users first. Choosing mobile first is in the past, and it’s been replaced by a much more powerful alternative — users first.
While that’s true that most people in the US use mobile (especially if your users involves Millennials or Gen Z), people still use other screens extensively. In fact, tech changes so fast that screens get lost and added to the list pretty much every week. If you want to have an impact, design for people. Design for change.
People consume information on multiple screens
Tech changes all the time, people change how they use the tech, and information consumption automatically changes along the way. The point? Change is real. And people move at different paces when accepting that change.
If you want to reach your people (internally or externally), you need to be looking at the same screens at the same time. And there are a lot of screens. Let’s take a basic screen inventory.
Screens people use now
These screens are prevalent in US households, and most people have at least two.
- Tablet / eReader
- Desktop computer
- Television / Gaming console
These screens exist in day-to-day life, but they’re not yet in every home.
- Car touchscreen
- Virtual reality (VR) headset
- Augmented reality (AR) headset
With this many screens, it’s easy to fall into the pitfall of designing for one. But what if your users don’t use that screen? Or what if they only use that screen half the time?
How to become screen-flexible
Because of the high change rate of technology, mobile first is a thing of the past. Unless, of course, you’re talking mobile as in movement, rather than its smartphone homonym.
Yes, that’s right. Mobile is no longer about devices — it’s about the movement of information in a changing world. Focusing on specific devices is a bad path (they change too frequently). Focusing on iOS vs. Android OS is a bad path (they’re both important). And focusing about phone vs. tablet is a bad path (they’ve merged into a larger category of portable screens).
The point is, if you design for the newest tech, you’ll be left with outdated content at the next shift in technology (which could be tomorrow, honestly). Rather than approaching a project with a device vs. device mentality, approach projects with a screen and user mindset.
Don’t dread the next tech update, plan for it. Dig deep into strategy and figure out the right platform for your people. Study the screens they use now, the screens they’ve used in the past, and the up-and-coming screens on their wishlists. In fact, one of the most important facts that’s often overlooked is audience positioning around digital screens.
How audience positioning changes the game
In marketing, audience positioning means discovering who your audience is, how they think, what they do, and how to best communicate with them. This means rolling up your sleeves and doing some research. You might be surprised at how little time your audience or users spends on a single screen. If you’re in learning, the same facts still apply — just switch out users for learners.
You might wonder why this matters. If your users are on mobile, tablet, or computer, you can still use the same content, right?
Well, to be honest, that doesn’t work very well. Mobile screens are still small (compared to computer screens), and readability and comprehension of the content change dramatically between screens due to the amount of content and the size of the text. The amount of information and the way it’s presented could change completely. This means that it’s critical to figure out your platform before you start into development and design.
3 steps to change your focus from mobile to movement
Dig yourself out of the tech-hype mentality. Now, don’t get us wrong — we love tech in all its forms — we just need a different focus. Start taking a deeper look at the big picture with these three steps.
1. Roll up your sleeves
Your strategists should be your best friends, but don’t leave all the work to them. Work hard to learn about your users for the project. Study tech movements, and never stop learning. The world changes too fast for that.
2. Do what’s best for your users
We all have favorite tech. Tech that might make an absolutely boundary-breaking end product. But is that product right for your users? Or is it right for your portfolio? No matter how cool the end product, it won’t matter if your users won’t use it.
3. Stay agile
Plan for change. Anticipate it. Reflect it in your work practice by using agile design sprints. This helps you get work done quickly, regroup, make changes, then sprint again. The end goal? Stay flexible, and be ready to adjust with the times and with your users.
Because your people are what really matter.
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