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This article was published on November 7, 2011

Josh Clark debunks the 7 Myths of Mobile Web Design

Josh Clark debunks the 7 Myths of Mobile Web Design
Courtney Boyd Myers
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Courtney Boyd Myers

Courtney Boyd Myers is the founder of audience.io, a transatlantic company designed to help New York and London based technology startups gr Courtney Boyd Myers is the founder of audience.io, a transatlantic company designed to help New York and London based technology startups grow internationally. Previously, she was the Features Editor and East Coast Editor of TNW covering New York City startups and digital innovation. She loves magnets + reading on a Kindle. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter @CBM and .

Today, at the Future of Web Design in New York City, Brooklyn based designer and developer Josh Clark took the stage to discuss the 7 Myths of Mobile Web Design.

“Our jobs are getting harder… We’re inundated by all these different screens. But this is also really exciting. How often do new platforms come around?…We’ve got the coolest job in the world. We have to figure out how to use these platforms. It’s one of the most exciting times in the history of our culture.”

-Josh Clark

According to Clark, designers are anthropologists who should view platforms as if they were cultures. So, what makes a mobile culture different from a desktop culture? “We tend to oversimplify mobile needs. And we risk building dumbed down apps that patronize our users,” he says. Designers have lots of mobile mindsets and cultural presumptions. These are the quick takeaways from Clark’s brilliant breakdown:

  1. Mobile users are rushed and distracted. Wrong. Mobile isn’t just on the go. It’s on the couch, in the kitchen, and during a 3 hour layover. When we’re on mobile, we’re micro-tasking, we’re local and we’re probably bored.
  2. Mobile=Less. Wrong. Mobile is not less. Mobile is not light. Designers make too many assumptions with screen size. Don’t limit functionality based on-screen size alone. “Saying mobile design should have less is like saying paperbacks have smaller pages, so we should remove chapters,” Clark says.
  3. Complexity is a dirty word. Wrong. Complexity is awesome, it gives our lives texture. Designers shouldn’t confuse complexity with complication. They need to manage complexity, not kill it. He cites the new Facebook iOS app as a great example of a complex app done well.
  4. Extra taps and clicks are evil. Wrong. It’s all about Tap Quality > Tap Quantity. Designers can create one big idea per screen instead of one big idea per app. He cites Twitter app’s well designed keyboard that simply slides in and out of view so that secondary tasks are just one tap away.
  5. Gotta have a mobile website. Wrong. Designers should focus on all platforms. We need great mobile experiences but not necessarily a separate website. Designers shouldn’t think of creating different websites for different devices. They should be thinking, what can the device do to enhance the experience?

    “Your mobile site should probably have less stuff than your desktop site right now, not because it’s mobile but because your desktop site is probably full of crap,” he says.

  6. Mobile is about apps. Wrong. Designers should stop focusing on apps, it’s not sustainable. “We can’t design a new experience on every platform from scratch every time,” he warns. Then, citing Bruce Lee, he says, content is like water; it takes many forms and flows into all these different containers.
  7. Content and API are for database nerds. Wrong. Designers all have to care about this too and get involved.

In the end, Clark says that designers need to focus on that fact that mobile devices enhance a user’s experience. Mobile is more. It’s a camera, a gyroscope, GPS and voice! Mobile gives a website super powers in comparison to a desktop experience.

What do you think? Is the future of web design most exciting when it comes to mobile? Let us know in the comments. 

Featured image: Shutterstock/James Thew

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