Trite and Overused the Saying may be, a lot of the time Less really is More; especially when dealing with Mobile platforms... where each and every resource is a precious commodity.
Some times more is good, more cake, more Challenge, and more fun; this is when more is good. However there are plenty of mores that are not as good; for example: More Lag, More Battery-Drain, or more Advertisements. Let me elaborate a bit: Imaging your average forum or Game Mod page. If it is a free site, it is probably loaded with ads; the sidebars are probably cluttered with Links and images... now imagine trying to navigate or use the site normally on a small phone screen… not a good time; Now think about the average Mobile Website. Simple, Clean, easy to use, and DESIGNED for a mobile device… this is a great experience.
Today, according to Recent Pew Stats, Over 85% of American’s have a Cell phone and just over half of all American’s have a smartphone of some flavor… that is a metric Butt-Ton of mobile devices doing everyday tasks… Like Browsing New sites, Shopping and Comparing Retailers, Checking Email, and Playing Games… lots and Lots of Games.
Interestingly, last February(2012) the percentage of Feature phones(Dumb phones) and that of Smartphone were both be about 50%, with Smartphones continuing to replace the Old School Flip-style Feature Phone.
We as a Culture, worldwide, are going mobile. In august We saw the number of people who own a Laptop surpass Desktop Owners; With the Advent of Slate-type Mobile Computers(Not Tablets, I am talking about computers similar to laptops, but who’s primary interface is a single large touchscreen) this Trend of Mobility is only expected to Continue. This last year we have seen all of the Major Computer Manufacturers and Software developers Invest Billions into Mobile Computing. It is my opinion that there will soon come a day when Desktops won’t exist anymore, at least not in their current form anyway. So Going Mobile and Lighter is quickly becoming a Necessity; for developers and Consumers alike.
So we are collectively going to have to clean up our Design Acts. To be fair, this whole concept started as a byproduct of the Bauhaus and so called Swiss Design styles, that has now Evolved into “Modern” Design and styling… this IKEA, and you are pretty close. While I don’t Normally Drink the Apple Kool-Aid, one thing they do very well is designing simple User Interfaces that even Toddlers can use… this is a great example of Intuitive Design and Less being more.
Here are a few ways we can help simplify our stuff for mobile:
1). Drill-down Rather than Present the user with all the info at once, start with showing the top level stuff first, then let the user drill deeper into the areas they want to know about… a good example of this is the Weather Channel’s (weather.com) mobile apps, they show only the days of the forecast, then the user can pick the day and drill down to hourly forecasts.
2). Intuitive. Don’t make the user do unnatural acts. Meaning: in your User interface, or video game, don’t make the user suddenly have to shake the controller when they have only ever user the buttons and stick in the standard way up till now… which really means that you should have a consistent and understandable method for all of your controls, so that the user can guess which button/action does what without having to be explicitly told.
3).Clean-up After Yourself. Whether when the app is running or being uninstalled, clear up all the stuff you used… like the old Camping motto for computing “Leave-no-Trace development” if you make a file or a number of objects in memory make sure you clean them up; Unsubscribe to events you are using; and always, always, always clear out temp files, caches and transact data… I cannot stand an app that leaves little bits behind after it is gone.
3.5). be respectful. You should always keep in mind that you are SHARING the mobile platform, and there me be dozens of other apps running on it at the same time… if even a few of the apps are pigs, the whole system suffers… and users get upset, uninstall, and leave negative feedback… then no one wins. This goes hand-in-hand with #3.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and these are just a few of the many, many “Should” and “Don’ts” for mobile development. If there is interest, I may post a more in-depth “best practices” discussion so; let me know in the comments below.
While I have been focusing mostly on mobile computing and Smartphones a majority of my comments apply equally to other areas of Design… Basically I am Focusing on the things that are closest to my everyday tasks.
All this being said, there are plenty of times when less is LESS; For instance, Anytime you make the user work harder, or make them repeat the same task multiple times (especially when you could have handled it once and remove the pain/annoyance for the user.) really there are far too many examples than I could ever name, so I will leave this discussion here, for now, and I will Continue you it next week, With my next post “When less is LESS”. Let me know in the comments below if there are particular examples you would like to share.
When creating anything, from a toothpick to a 100 storey Office building, Good design is Good Design; It Solves Problems.
When looking at a Design problem, I have found it helpful to remember the , now, near infamous Ten principles for Good Design. I use these ten principle as a starting point whenever i start a design, obviously these principles are a little different for Software, but a Majority of them are exactly the Same... I am going to Iterate through the list and give my thoughts on my take on each.
1) Good Design is Innovative: This can't be more true of Software, if you are doing the same thing as everyone else, why are you doing it at all?
2) Good Design Makes a Useful Product: Again this one is Essential for Software no matter how good your product if it is not useful then why bother.
3) Good Design is Aesthetic: While you could probably get away with "Programmer Art" Todays Software buyers, Mobile or not , demand polished and beautiful software. Without a carefully Designed Aesthetic your software is likely to slip between the cracks in todays markets.
4) Good Design Makes a Product Understandable: i see this as a caution against forcing the user to do complicated tasks over and over, if you can simplify it you should or if i, the developer, can do something once that keeps the user from doing a task over and over i should.
5) Good Design is unobtrusive: I take this quite differently than i think Dieter Means it... i see this one as more of a shielding of the user. in other words, the user should never how difficult or complicated your program is behind the scenes, it should only be simple and polished upfront.
6) Good Design is Honest: You should never lie or mislead your user, and you should never sell your software on a promise it doesn't fulfill.
7) Good Design is Long-Lasting: When building a piece of software make it Maintainable, don't build it to fill a temporary need and expect to rewrite it 6 months or a year later. Don't Take Shortcuts or make quick fixes; Invest the time to build trust with your user, and your user will become loyal and continue to give you a job.
8) Good Design is Through down to the last detail: Define the scope of your project, define it early and make sure you understand the whole of the project. Features and Concepts User interaction and Tasks, all need to be well thought out and carefully considered, this will make both developing the project and using your software easier.
9) Good Design is Environmentally-Friendly: Don't be a Resource Hog. Use as little Memory, Storage and CPU resources as necessary Never assume that the User is only running your software or that there will never be other programs won't be running at the same time... Simply don't Muck up the Software Environment you are running in.
10) Good Design is as little Design as Possible: Again this Comes Down to Simplicity, don't overcomplicate the software or you run the risk of confusing and alienating your user.
you should probably take this with a grain of salt, these are totally my opinions. these are the rules i follow when building a peice of software, an i fell they are particularly important when building a game... not to mention a Mobile Game.
Tall Ship Team
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