Could a meetup called “Context in Mobile UX Strategy: The Importance of Being Fickle” come only from someone with a background in continental philosophy? It appears that way when you’re talking to Thomas Wendt, a UX strategist and founder of Surrounding Signifiers, a strategy and design consultancy currently with an innovation team at American Express talking in a midtown Manhattan office. OLC attended this meetup on March 28, 2013.
The context Wendt is talking about concerns the discourse of a mobile UX strategy between user and (portable) device. “Strategy should also be movable, fickle and adaptive. We should be able to adjust based on changing priorities and contexts. It embraces the fickle nature of how we exist in the world.”
But Wendt is not fickle when it comes to mobile design practices, as he adheres to the following:
1. Contextual inquiry. Observe directly within the context of everyday use
2. Ethnography. Observe indirectly within the context of everyday use
3. Participatory design. Have users participate in the design process
4. Storyboarding. Sketch a narrative from beginning to end
5. Contextual personas. A great place to start…a terrible place to end(?)
Explaining the latter, he breaks the context of personas as doing (involving physical activity and ability habits), thinking (involving cognitive assumptions, educational ability) and feeling (involving psychological state, anxiety, confidence, stress, desire).
Context for him is cultural, for only then can have its meaning. For his industry, “meaning emerges out of the difference between self, world and micro world.”
What makes mobile portable? “Mobile is about potential and adaptation. The portable phone became mobile when we establish discourse with them,” he said.
Wendt emphasizes how the interface is not just a screen, but an interaction space. He sees how the interface has evolved from being a screen-based graphic to a discourse-based one that involves a more natural and organic interface—for instance, those touch-enabled computers and Google glasses.
Yes, it’s been that long since the era of the command line and graphical interfaces.