Posts Tagged “mobile”

The “Maps” application on my iPhone used to work great. It pulled up the number of a nearby joint so fast I never bothered to save those numbers to my contacts list.

Then, about a month back, something annoying happened. I’d search for a local joint – say Gino’s East, to order pizza – and my normal search result appeared different.



While I noticed a difference – my restaurant listing is now a “sponsored link” – I didn’t think much of it. Then the call was answered by GrubHub and not Gino’s East. I hung up.

After further inspection, I discovered my around-the-corner pizzeria is now the unassuming red pin next to the big glaring advertisement.

The math here is pretty obvious – had I completed the call. GrubHub takes a cut from my Pizzeria. Google takes ad dollars from GrubHub. Apple, I’m sure, gets some form of compensation.

Now, let’s talk unintended consequences.

What happens if I succumb to mobile advertising Nirvana and click the default GrubHub ad on every search? I was going to order takeout from my Pizzeria anyway. Similarly, I was going to make a reservation at La Gondola on Saturday regardless of a GrubHub ad. The upshot here is that either my local restaurant takes less profit or raises its prices – one of us ultimately pays for it.

Conversely, what happens if I evade the GrubHub ad? I can – and do – click around the ad to ring my local joint directly. It’s only one extra tap. But it’s a precise tap – while cradling a baby, while walking down the sidewalk, while hanging for dear life inside a CTA train.

Perhaps the precedent is more important. I consider “Maps” an application that I paid for when I bought my iPhone. It came preinstalled. I couldn’t remove it if I wanted to. And the phone certainly wasn’t free.

It’s only one extra tap, but this is the first time I’ve been annoyed by – or ever seen – an ad in a preinstalled application on ANY phone I’ve owned. And this isn’t just any advertising. This advertising affects how I use the phone. Personally, I will pay to avoid being assaulted by advertising. That’s one reason I don’t have an Android phone. That’s the major reason I’m selective about my use of Google.

What’s the upshot?

For me, I see a behavior change. One by one, I’ll add local shops and restaurants to my contact list. Hopefully it’ll take Google a couple more years to find its way there.

For mobile usability, this is a loss, as the extra ad dollar is clearly more important than the paying customer – even on an iPhone.

For my local joints, it’s one more national player trying to take a bite out of their pie. That’s also bad for me.

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I regularly hear that designing for the mobile world is different. Apple is often trumpeted as this axiom’s poster child, as the iPhone and the iPad prove that Apple gets and designs for mobile usability.

Last week I decided to try the official WordPress for Blackberry app,  which was first released in February. I spent this week using that little app during my commute to the office, composing a refresher post on the benefits of sprints, iterations and other timebox mechanisms (because it’s worth taking the time to assess whether we continue to receive value from long-standing practices.)

On Friday morning, my post was nearly complete — at least ten paragraphs, crunched out in my spare time on Blackberry keys while standing on or waiting for the L. I thought about another post idea and hit the context button on the Blackberry then “New” to create another post. Whoops! My Why We Sprint post was gone. Completely gone. A little investigation left me with only one conclusion. On the context menu, “Delete” is located one item down from “New”. The only draft on my Blackberry was that Why We Sprint post, which was necessarily highlighted when I hit the context menu. A little roll-click drift on the trackball sent my post to read-write-hell.

I wasn’t happy. My initial reaction was to get frustrated because the app developers hadn’t thought that someone would be using an imprecise trackball with his second left thumb while standing on a swaying L car. The mobile world is different. You need to build in extra robustness to account for less precise input mechanisms and on-the-go users. They should have taken the extra time to add an Are You Sure? pop-up.

One day — and a fruitless hour file recovery effort — later I realized that my initial reaction was completely wrong. My lost post had nothing to do with mobile being different. Rather, it had everything to do with the part of mobile that is the same as all recent computing platforms. My lost post had nothing to do with pinch-and-zoom-whizbangery, nor a missing auto-save feature, nor versioning, nor online backups. I lost my post because the standard Are You Sure? pop-up that’s been on computers since greenscreens and on the web since Mozilla was not there. That’s not different. That’s sloppy.

Yes, designing for mobile is different. But that’s no excuse for failing to heed the lessons learned on platforms past, especially the fundamental ones.

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