On a small screen, user experience is everything

Three mobile apps that get user experience right.

gmail_mobileScreenshot.pngUntil someone comes up with a way to mind meld with mobile devices, the size limitations will largely define the overall experience. That’s why a focus on interaction — not just look and feel — is an important part of any mobile project.

In a recent interview, Madhava Enros, mobile user experience lead at Mozilla and a speaker at the Web 2.0 Expo 2011 in San Francisco, discussed three mobile applications that he believes handle user experience quite well.

One that is very dear to my heart — at Mozilla we’re really into the whole open web app concept using web technologies — is the Gmail web app for the iPhone. It’s arguably a better mail client than the native one on the iPhone, and they’re using a lot of really cool open web technologies to do it.

Another that I really like is the Kindle. I love the hardware itself, but Amazon really seems to have understood that mobile usage is about a constellation of devices. It’s not just about the one phone you have. It’s being able to read at home on your ereader, but then read on your Android phone when you’re on the train, or pick up your iPad when you’re elsewhere. That kind of consistency of getting at your stuff across a bunch of devices is a really great insight.

And there’s Flipboard, where they understand how people are using some of these emerging technologies, like Twitter, as a protocol more than a service. It’s the insight that people aren’t using Twitter as an email replacement — though some people are — but as a way of reading a newspaper.

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Enros also talked about the trend toward voice activation technology. While typing on mobile devices likely won’t prevail in the long term — he said no mobile device does it really well and he described the spectrum as “OK to terrible” — he also doesn’t think talking to devices will be the default:

You just have to watch that person on the bus who’s yelling into their cell phone to know that talking to a device is not always the answer. Sometimes you need a little bit — or should have a little bit — of privacy.

For more of Enros’ thoughts on mobile design and interaction, check out the full interview in the following video:

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