Advent of high speed wireless data networks and powerful hand held devices with computing resources matching those of a early 2000’s desktop has made the Internet omni-present. One can be anywhere and still be on the Internet, as long as the wireless services are available in the area and the device battery has the juice to deliver the mobile Internet experience. How do the classic and new modes differ?
Traditional users using Internet at homes, offices, schools, cyber cafes find this experience much different from sitting on desk glued to computer screens, fingers dancing on keyboard and scrolling the mouse wheels. Now they use the thumb and index finger on touch sensitive mobile devices screens with a gentle flick, drag, press and tap on the screens. Touch screen as the only I/O interface in most of the smart phones available brings about a totally new way of interacting with the information available on Internet.
This change in the restriction of availability of Internet based on location and position and bulky device has changed the way users respond to the Internet content. Time bound usage in cyber cafes is replaced by use at will. Desk based usage is replaced by use where you are. There is no urgency to complete the Internet usage within a time limit. There is no concern on the data being unreachable after powering off the computer or moving away from the desk.
Hand held personal devices like mobile smart phones have increased the user dependence on Internet for a very simple reason i.e. availability on finger tips and at all times. Users with mobile smart phones use Internet in short time bursts for specific purposes very unlike users with location and time bound usage restrictions which expects users to search and browse and spend time and effort to get the desired information.
Now the mobile internet user expects the information to be available without delays of searching, browsing and cross checking. This behaviour drives the user to simpler and quicker interfaces which deliver desired information with a tap of the finger. Users now have all the time with no time restrictions on usage. So what would one expect – usage patterns to be for longer duration and constant usage. But now the user is more restless and wants to spend little time in sustained browsing for an information. Attention spans have reduced. While an increase in sporadic accesses to websites and its content with an intention to quick use and quick forget is the norm. This significant change is due to the earlier limitation of place and time of access being diluted beyond recognition.
Now the user spends time in short bursts on the personal hand held device for lot of personal issues like health, food, clothes, socializing, music, photos as well as little business.
The websites and software applications designs to be more popular, have to cater to this changed user behaviour patterns.
With Mobility the Internet treated as a ‘resource’ earlier has moved on to become more of a ‘tool’ for mankind. The present challenge in website development is to design useful tools (or apps) versus the resource (information) delivery platforms of the past.