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by Geoff Bock
My Love/Hate Relationship
I’ll admit it, I have a favorite mobile airline app. Sometimes I have even booked flights at a lower price on my smartphone than were available on the carrier’s own web site. I love getting the best deal possible!
I also have a candidate for my most brain-dead mobile experience. It’s the same app in a different context. When I am in the air and my flight is suddenly rerouted due to bad weather, the app still assumes that I want to make a reservation. It provides no reassurance or insight about how the airline will get me to my destination. All I am left with is a torrent of SMS messages (yes, I signed up for automatic alerts) and the need to stand in line and talk to a customer service representative.
A Computer in My Pocket
Certainly I should expect something better. The airline knows I have boarded the flight and there is a service interruption. My device can signal my location once I am back on the ground. It shouldn’t be rocket science to give me real-time advice about what comes next – taking into account all of the weather and travel delay information available.
A good mobile airline app should recognize my context. After all, I am walking around with a computer in my pocket. It’s always on and it senses my location. I hope that the brands I like and trust will figure out how to mobilize this power for my benefit – and theirs.
Beyond Devices and Displays
What will this mobilization entail? As the mobile revolution has accelerated over the past five years, app designers have focused primarily on the capabilities of the devices themselves. The Drupal community itself is alive with ongoing conversations about theming and responsive design – identifying the most flexible ways to display information on devices of varying form factors.
Yet there is more to designing mobile apps than just miniaturizing the selections from full screen web browsers. Mobile designers and the application developers who support them must take the next step, and also pay attention to the content required to deliver engaging experiences. They need to identify my context and preferences. Good mobile apps should sense and respond to what I am doing at the moment, when I am engaged in one experience or another.
Designing for Task-Centric Mobility
What I would like to see is a focus on task-centric mobility, where mobile apps empower me to solve problems and take action. Sometimes I have the time to browse for information. Other times I just want to snack on a few juicy tidbits. I want an engaging experience that values my time and recognizes my tasks.
The flash shopping site RueLaLa demonstrates these essential lessons for task- centric mobility. On tablets and PCs, browsing for bargains is an immersive and very visual experience with many options to bid on the deals of the day. On smartphones, it’s all about checking lists to see when a deal I want has closed, if I bought the item, and when I’ll receive it.
Now flash shopping is admittedly appealing only to a certain demographic. But just imagine the delight in many other situations when my mobile app senses my context, knows my location, and responds intelligently with the relevant content. Behind the app there are a core set of content services accessible for mobile connections. When designing for task-centric mobility, it’s essential to consider the total customer experience and how it is powered by access to great content.
How does this work? As a platform built around content, Drupal has some very intriguing capabilities for managing the content services for task-centric mobility. It’s modular, flexible, and extensible – and demonstrates great progress for supporting the rapid pace of innovation for mobilizing applications. Stay tuned – I will talk about the connections between content services and the mobile apps they power in my next blog post.