What's the future of mobile design? Well, it's not just about providing access to a specific application on a specific device—it's more. Users are now working with enterprise content on-the-go, off hours and off premise, and if they're not able to do so by mobile effectively, their productivity suffers.
Let's face it; cramming a desktop application onto a mobile device so the user has access just doesn't work—and the demands of enterprise users are changing as a new generation enters the workforce.
Consumerization of IT
Let's go back to the beginning. Mobile truly began influencing user expectation on interaction and functionality with the launch of the first iPhone software development kit in 2008. The mobile device, and its focus on easy-to-use applications and systems, forced the enterprise to realize that computing isn't about just providing access to corporate systems. Regardless of how technical the task, it's the design of the tools that users engage with every day that really matters.
In the last 40 years, corporate IT hasn't been concerned with productivity and ease of use, but today users demand that their interface experience across all business applications mirrors the interface experiences they have on their consumer devices. The success of the mobile device has been credited in a large part to its interface, which is both easy-to-use and graphically enticing, and that's driving the "consumerization of IT."
Shifting User Expectations
It will be critical for user experience (UX) designers to closely consider the needs and wants of enterprise users as the Millennials continue pervading workplaces. As the first generation to grow up with both Internet and mobile access to content, smartphones and tablets are an integrated part of their lives and the always-on connectivity has shaped their expectations for content engagement and UX.
This demographic will define the successful adoption of future applications and technologies in the workplace, as they’ll represent 75% of the workforce by 2025 (according to research from inmobi).
With three quarters of the future workforce having grown up constantly connected to the Internet, more so than ever before, users will want to view content and interact with it in the same way that they do on the mobile device—but on the desktop.
Touch has already landed on the desktop, as evidenced from new hybrid laptop/tablet/keyboard computers hitting the market and the release of Windows 8, and is changing the demands on UX designers. Desktop and Web application user interfaces (UIs) are also seeing the effects of mobile. Icons and dialog box design, which used to be complex and required a lot of user-interaction, have now been greatly simplified into just a single pane.
The Secret to Successful Design
How users navigate a desktop application is drastically different than what users expect on a mobile device—those files and folders that users can quickly whip through by using a mouse are more likely to remain hidden on smaller touch screen devices.
The secret of successful mobile design is to think about how users actually engage with information. Successful mobile designers are focused on how content and process work together to enable mobile users to do their daily tasks better rather than simply focusing on mobile content management—without concern for the specific type of device in use (iPhone, iPad or Galaxy Tab).
Moving forward, enterprise users will access apps across multiple devices and platforms—desktop, smartphone and tablet—often covering all platforms in one day. If the focus on design evolves from administration and organization of information across folders and files to one that considers how users work with information in the context of a process, then the design will actually solve a business problem.
Effective UX design is about crafting deeper connections that enable end-user computing devices to work better together rather than just co-exist. The productivity that mobile design enables is driving its overflow to other devices, but as Millennials start to dominate the workforce, understanding how users need to engage with enterprise content will be the key to continued success of mobile design, no matter their device.