“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” Well, thumb-surfers the world over took a step closer to being able to experience rich Mobile Web applications last week with the release of the Web Integration Compound Document (WICD — pronounced wicked). I wrote about WICD in InformIT almost two years ago. It’s taken that long to shake out the bugs in the specification. In the mean time, a lot has happened on the mobile Web front, but the WICD specification is more important than ever. Why? Because it promises a predictable environment for creating rich Web applications across browser implementations that integrate rich vector-based graphics and animations that can scale to different screen sizes and layouts. It’s like Ajax on SVG steroids. Opera already provides partial support in Opera Mobile (and has committed full support), but in order to truly deliver on that promise, it needs to be deployed across multiple browser platforms. Now that it has gone to “Candidate Recommendation” stage in the W3C, it will have that chance.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the mobile user experience, particularly the experience of the Web on the (typical) mobile device. I say “typical” because I’m not talking about the iphone here — I’m talking about the kind of mass-market device that billions of real users hold in their hands every day. Increasingly these are devices that are capable of a reasonable data services experience, but they are still not being used to their potential. What is the new user paradigm that will truly kick start the mobile Web? The essential innovation of the Web itself was putting together two existing technologies: hypertext and the Internet. Hypertext had been around for a while, in library-science and computer science circles and even in such products as Hypercard. Likewise, the Internet was around and widely used (mostly by academics and students) through well understood but essentially plain text paradigms such as FTP, Telnet and Gopher. Both these technologies by themselves were limited in their appeal. But somehow, layering Hypertext on top of the Internet (the Web) created something that was greater than the sum of its parts, and the Web as we know it was born. Yes, there were other factors at work in the birth of the Web but I believe it was the marriage of these two technologies that was the crucial factor. When we come to the mobile Web, however — that is, usage of the Web on devices which are intended to be used one-handed, often with a four-way rocker switch instead of …

Wanted: a New User Experience Metaphor for the Mobile Web Read more »

So here I am, sitting in a panel at South by Southwest on “designing for convergent devices.” As I walked in, I caught the tail end of something that seemed really cool – a service called Zannel that does user gen video content with a mobile and Web UI. Forget Youtube for mobile – these guys have already done it. They’ve designed for simplicity, and it’s great that the designers and app developers here at SXSW are getting that message. Also interesting to see that the SXSW.mobi site is getting a lot of discussion here – and people aren’t asking “what is dotMobi?” – there really seems to be a lot of recognition here of what dotMobi is and more generally what a mobile friendly Web site is (works on your phone). That’s pretty cool. Just now listening to Denise Burton from Frog Design talking about the challenges of 4-way navigation based design (especially with regard to focus state). She stressed the importance of animations and transitions. YES. This is exactly the challenge that the WICD mobile profile seeks to address – being able to design consistent user experience that responds in a coherent way to user input, and be able to use SVG-based animations and transitions to respond to user feedback. Other notes: I had joked that they would probably put all the Interactive content off in a back room somewhere to keep the nerds away from the film and music people. Well, it’s no joke. These SXSW Interactive panels are off in what seems …

South by Southwest Live Notes Read more »