Mobile Metrics I’d Like to See

Nearly everyone who talks about the differences between designing for desktop and mobile talks about how you have to keep in mind that your users are “on the go.”

How true is that? How often are people walking fast down the street looking for a crucial piece of information vs. sitting on the bus, at their office, or on their couch using their phones?

Using a combination of the accelerometer and GPS, we could define some metrics as to whether or not the person is stationary or moving. We might be able to tell if they are sitting (little accelerometer movement) but in a vehicle (GPS changes).

That’s information that goes far beyond the traditional page view or user session and into information that is mobile specific and very useful for user experience designers.

I realize there are both privacy and battery life concerns with tracking this information. It isn’t a simple problem to solve.

But if those obstacles could be overcome, understanding whether or not our visions of how people “on the go” use mobile technology matches how people really use their mobile devices, would be very interesting.

Image courtesy Flickr user rustmonster licensed under Creative Commons.

2 thoughts on “Mobile Metrics I’d Like to See”

  1. You bring up some good points. I’ve noticed the phrase “on the go” has been over-used over the past few years. Too many times the phrase is used to talk about how to visually design apps/wap pages.

    My research over the last few years has thought me one thing; mobile isn’t Information Technology, it is Applied Information Technology. The most successful mobile services (regardless of form) tend to align themselves very well with the “Applied” piece.

    Mobile users want information they can use right away. Few people use mobile devices to research a topic for their homework or for that important report you have to hand to your boss tomorrow. Instead it is about what I need now…..

    – when is the bus coming? Answer may determine if I wait or find alternate transportation.
    – what’s on the menu for this restaurant? Answer may determine if I go in or not.
    – What’s my checking account balance? Answer may determine if I purchase an item or not.
    – How do I get there? Answer helps me navigate to my destination.

    But it is not necessarily just real-life information that falls into the “Applied Information Technology” category. For example: Mobile social networking is becoming important to more and more users. So it is not about certain type of information….different types of information is important to different users. But, at the end of the day, if the user can’t apply the information to something, the chance of repeat usage reduces drastically.

    In the ideal world the mobile understands who you are, what you’re doing right now (and later), and in what context you are doing it. In addition your mobile understands the information stream (either because you requested it or because the mobile realized you wanted it) and knows when to present information or when to hold the information. For example; if you’re home sick you really don’t want your mobile to warn you about slow traffic on your usual route to work. On the flip side you want your mobile to alert you if you’re house gets broken into while you’re on a date.

    But we’re far from the ideal world. In the real world we have to, like you mentioned, balance battery life with application complexity; privacy with openness (how much do you want your mobile to know about you); how connected do you really want to be….etc etc.

    What is certain is that it isn’t technology that will limit the use of mobile advances today, it is how comfortable the majority of users feel about the technology. Over time this will change….the mobile is super personal today, tomorrow we will trust enough to open ourselves to these devices.

    Some developers want to wait until tomorrow’s world is reality before they participate in providing content/services to users, while some people want to drive the world to tomorrow. It is the latter group that will determine how we use mobile technology in the future. I can’t wait…..

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