Designing a user experience for mobile is completely different from a website. This may seem obvious to you because of the screen size and the input, however it is MUCH more than just the screen size and the lack of an input device such as keyboard and mouse. So what more is there?
For one, the environment can be entirely dynamic because a cell phone can be taken anywhere, you can be running, on a train, on a boat, etc. A great mobile experience should be able to be indiscriminate to its context, wherever you are.
The biggest change, obviously, will be the screen size real estate and because of this you must ONLY have the essentials that are needed. In other words, you must satisfy the need of why the user opened up your app or mobile site in the first place. For instance, If I visit the Gmail mobile site I don’t care about the Google readers, or the Google docs, etc. The #1 need for me is to check my email, so if you need to sacrifice the Google reader to make my user experience easier to check email then DO IT!
I was watching one of the old WWDC(World Wide Developer’s conference) , I think 1997, Steve Jobs was talking about produce development and he said that one of the most important lessons he had learned was that it’s best to concentrate on the consumer’s needs first and work backwards to see how the technology can support that instead of the other way around, which is to get a group of developers and see what we can flexibly build for the consumer. So step #1 in designing a great mobile experience is to understand what the exactly the user needs and try to find the best user interface to accomplish those needs.
Here are a few key points that a great mobile experience should have.
Low learning curve. A great user interface has almost ZERO learning curve and should be easy to use from the get go.
Minimal. The functionality presented should be very minimalistic or limited to what the user needs to do. Ford once said “You can buy a Model T in any color you want, as long as it’s black”. A great mobile experience should be “You can use this app as long as you press the only button that’s available to you” .
Steps. The point of entry from point A to point B, where the user wants to go should be as minimal as possible.
Leaving a trail. Back in the good ol’ days people used to leave a noticeable trail so that they can find their way back. The mobile user experience should be the same. It should be easy to see where you came from and where you are going.