Mobile context

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephangeyer/3501272881/ I have had conversations with folks where I mention the need for an instructional designer to understand the context for a mobile experience. Here’s what I mean …

Example 1:

I’m standing on the grocery store checkout line. I take out my smartphone to look over my shopping list one last time to make sure I got everything. Perhaps I’ll then check a game score (because I’m standing on line rather than watching the TV at home). And if this line is quite long and moving slowly, I’ll send a text message to tell my family that I’m probably going to be running late.

Example 2:

I’m in the doctor’s office waiting room and will probably have about 10 minutes, at least, before I get in to see the doctor. I take out my smartphone to “check in” via some social application (such as Foursquare, or Facebook, etc.). It’s in the morning, so I’ll then check my email inbox for any important messages.

Example 3:

My friends and I are waiting in a theater lobby. We’re talking about the different shows we like; and there is a disagreement as to whether or not a certain actor was in the original Broadway cast of a show. We all take out our smartphones and search – some may use Google, others might use Bing, and others may go to Wikipedia. We all discover that our friend is correct … this actor was in the original cast.

Some key things in each example …

  • There is a time opportunity
    • I didn’t plan to use my smartphone at a certain time. Rather, I find myself with just enough time to look something up or accomplish a specific task. I choose to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • I am likely in a public space or a space with lots of distractions
    • There is plenty of noise (ambient, other people, TV or radio, etc). There are also other people or other store displays that draw my attention as well. If something seems to be more interesting then it’s going to get my attention – or my attention will split into much smaller bits as I look at my smartphone, then glance at a magazine rack, then back to my smartphone, then to listen to the music playing, back to my smartphone, and so on.
  • I’m using my smartphone to accomplish some task
    • Since I’m taking advantage of the time opportunity – and I’m pretty sure it won’t be a lot of time – I use my smartphone to do something quite specific … the review a list, to see a game’s score, to send a text message, to look up a fact, to ‘check-in’ via a social app.
    • This task, by its very nature, is short and simple to accomplish. It doesn’t require my reading or reviewing lots of text; it doesn’t walk me through some type of “how to use” orientation or overview.
    • The task I want to accomplish may or may not be related to my location. It makes sense (to me, at least) to double-check my grocery list before I get to the cashier. That’s location specific. Yet other tasks are not necessarily tied to my location – I’m just taking advantage of the time opportunity to read something on my Twitter stream or to check the game’s score.

All of this is the context … the when? where? how? why? questions regarding the use of a mobile device. And these are the types of questions to ask and considerations to take into account when designing a mobile learning experience for someone in my organization.  And I’ll be developing this idea in future blog posts.

… so, stay tuned …

photo credit: Stephan Geyer via photopin cc

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About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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  1. Pingback: Mobile context – Time Opportunity | Learn-Learn-Learn

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