2013_01_featured_Danielle Theory

Customization & Personalization Trends Challenge The Mobile Sector

This is a guest post by Danielle Arad.

Mobile is all the rage nowadays, there’s no denying it. Since the inception of smart devices around the turn of the century, computers have become increasingly compact, allowing mobile devices to become more powerful as time goes by. Once, there were a handful of task-specific handheld devices, such as phones, music players, organizers, gaming devices and GPS systems. Now, there is only one smart device that combines all different tasks.

It has taken some time to work out a standard for what makes a mobile app or a mobile web service. That is because the shape and interface of mobile devices needed time to adjust to the newness of the technology compared to other industries. Over time, basic standards and practices for the delivery of web content, mobile applications, and other materials have organically established themselves through the ambient trial and error of users and developers.

Today, we have a fairly good sense of how mobile websites and mobile apps should be designed and delivered. Compared to the time it took for PC and gaming standards to establish themselves (over 30 years), we have achieved these precepts at an impressive rate. However, a new variable has been thrown in the mix. First showing itself in PC software and general web services; it is now going to have some distinct ramifications for the mobile industry: Customization.

Ramifications of Mobile Customization

Technical Issues

With limited screen real estate, there is a limit to how far customization can go for mobile applications. Layouts cannot be adjusted by a user to their given standards and needs, nor can procedural settings. For the most part, customization on mobile can only go as far as filters for content and presentation as well as superficial aesthetics, such as color schemes, fonts, and button faces. Compare this to PC software and standard website interfaces, where whole layouts may be modified by a user to create custom interfaces unique to each user. This simply cannot be done with mobile devices as they are today.

The results of this issue require mobile designers to change the way they think about their users when designing for mobile. Serious revision in the design of mobile technology must soon come into being to facilitate individual user needs and user context.

A New Way of Thinking: Shifting from Customization to Personalization

Personalization involves designers to tailor the content of a website or application to user preferences and needs, organizing programs and interfaces as well as data storage to be unique to how an individual thinks.

PC websites and services have resorted to implementing personalization in order to increase conversion rates and revenue and enhance the user experience, providing pleasing and even unexpected surfing experiences. Even Web-based tools have pushed the realm of personalization by allowing website owners to customize design flows on their website based on user-context.

Due to mobile convenience, people are shifting to solely interacting with their smart devices as opposed to relying on PCs. Therefore, personalization based on user-context is essential to creating a unified and successful physical and digital experience. With personalization, users would get optimal use out of their mobile devices, and also out of the software and service run on them. Obstacles that current standardizations, which inhibit users on some level or another, would no longer be present. Productivity would soar as would accessibility.

Concerns of Personalization

Software developers and mobile app designers may be challenged in establishing proper standards for the several types of interfaces and programming conventions. This is because they vary among iOS, Android, and Windows 8 and mutate between users. An additional problem that seems to be largely overlooked by users is the issue of privacy. The contextual information that is collected from users in order to create the highest possible personalized experienced is widely disregarded by users so that they may reap the benefits and flexibility of the mobile trend.

However, this level of personalization, on either end, can grant some level of by-proxy insight into a user’s mind that people may not be ready for others to have, and for good reason. The mobile industry is constantly adapting to current technology disruption. Mobile personalization does introduce some potential dangers as well as limitations to overcome. Things are moving quickly, trends are coming and going, but all in all, we are aware that the user experience, user-focus and context in design will become more strategic and prevalent than ever.

Your thoughts?

What do you think about personalization of the mobile sector? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 comments

  1. Michael

    I think it’s a step in the right direction. We’re soon going to have personalization with everything – from grocery shopping to cars shops. And everything will have an app…

  2. Grant

    “The contextual information that is collected from users in order to create the highest possible personalized experienced is widely disregarded by users so that they may reap the benefits and flexibility of the mobile trend.”

    … sounds scary. Shouldn’t be disregarded. The apps themselves should address issues of privacy, and the best apps will have functions such as selective disclosure built in. Example, U of T research project: http://propid.ischool.utoronto.ca/

  3. interest data

    thanks a lot for sharing such an nice post. its really nice. thanks a lot for sharing such an nice post. its amazing.

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