A Mobile Petting Zoo… what and why

Mobile Petting Zoo

When I speak at conferences I often carry what I call my Mobile Petting Zoo. It’s what I use to demonstrate the importance of hands on experience with different devices.

Why is that important?

It’s important because often we’re not too clear about what we mean by ‘mobile’ when we use the word. Generally we think of ‘a small screen’, and that’s correct as far as it goes. But usually we’re too limited in our thinking. When we’re thinking of that small screen, we’re actually thinking about our small screen – the one we carry on a day-to-day basis, be it a phone or tablet.

And that’s a problem.

It’s a problem because if we think only about our own device we lose sight of the fact that there are many, many devices out there, with widely differing capabilities, and widely different interface paradigms. We need to get out of our boxes (or tablets, as the case may be) and remember that our content may render differently on different types of mobile devices.

That’s not to say that you have to understand every device, or create content specifically for each device (perish the thought). But it does mean that you have to remember that not everyone will use the same device you do, so you don’t want to subconsciously create content ‘for your device’.

If you’re just creating simple textural content, with few links or few images, it’s not all that important. But if you’re moving into the world of higher value content, with more images, more links, possibly audio or video – you should keep the diversity of systems at the back of your mind at all times. It’s especially important if your company is planning on delivering content via an app, because the app experience on each platform, and the capabilities different devices within the platform range can be considerable.

But of course, there are so many different devices out there you really can’t be expected to have one of each, or even a reasonable sample of them.

True – but if you can talk to your friends and colleagues, and borrow their devices now and then to see how they work it would stand you in good stead as you create content.

You can also talk to me. 😉 At most conferences I carry a variety of devices. I demonstrate how different sites or different apps work on each device. And if there’s time, I set up what I call my “mobile petting zoo” where you can actually use the devices and display your own content (if it’s accessible) in them to see how it looks. Seeing how someone else delivers the same type of content across a variety of devices can be quite eye-opening!

You can follow me on twitter (@Cooper_42) to see where I’ll be speaking next, and see if I’ve brought me ‘zoo’ with me.

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