I am recovering from a very busy IBM Impact. It was great to meet with so many customers. By far, Mobile was the topic that I spoke the most about. One area of discussion is how web design is fundamentally different than mobile. Designing modern web 2.0 applications is like designing a mall directory. You show all the possible places and how to get there. Some shoppers go to the directory and plan out their shopping. They find the one or twenty stores they need and look for the directions. However, mobile is about having to run into the mall and be done in 5 minutes. You need to go right to the 1 store you are going to visit without looking at the mall directory as quickly as possible. The mobile web app is like having a personal guide who needs to know when you walk in and show exactly where you want to go.
Today I went out to eat with my wife and kids somewhere about an hour away from my home town. I did not know the area. She asked me to find the closest of a particular department store. I went to their mobile site and tried to use the "Locate Store" Feature on their mobile site. It asked me for an address. Of course I did not know where I was to begin with, so I did not have an address. Their Mobile Application failed them (not me, I did not want to go to the store, my wife did) because they missed the moment to guide me to their store. In turn we ended up driving home instead. We also have no plans to buy the item we needed cause something else came up. Their Mobile Website was designed like a normal website. An address locator makes sense behind my home computer, but not while I was trying to find you on my Blackberry Torch. That store lost revenue today.
A Mobile Web page of a store with locations should have a button that says: "Find Store Near You." Upon clicking, it should return a list of stores (5 max). I can touch the first store and it should use the Geolocation API to give me accurate directions. It can also integrate with my GPS application or integrate with a web based navigation system to provide my navigation.
Mobile applications need to know the road most traveled. It needs to provide me with the fastest route to the 1 item I am going to do. It needs to know where and sometimes when I am going to do it. It is the context of the phone use. That is the key word. If you miss the moment, then you lose. People will pass it up and not use your app.