SPECIAL TO PICS: DESIGN FOR MO BILE INTERA CTION
Students demonstrated the ability to:
• Describe the affordances of Mobile interaction.
• Apply core methodologies and vocabulary relevant to Mobile interaction.
• Analyze the cognitive, interactive, & affective capability of existing Mobile service.
• Plan the structure of a Mobile application within a service model.
• Construct a fully-functioning prototype of a Mobile application.
• Evaluate the value of the designed Mobile application, given assessment criteria.
As an upper level undergraduate special topics course, Design for Mobile Interaction
built upon the students preliminary experience with interactive software and concept
mapping. As a semester-long project, students designed a mobile application that
enabled a specific group of people to learn a complex process. For example, students
chose to design mobile apps for young adults learning about the stock market, early
teens learning energy conservation practices, high school biology students learning
symbiosis, travelers learning to speak Spanish, young adults learning to cook from
scratch, adolescents learning to play the cello, and new home owners learning home
Students developed mobile apps using user-assessment methods, information
architecture strategies, and production techniques specific to mobile interaction.
Additionally, a team of industry experts from the T-Mobile Creation Center joined us to
discuss what goes on behind the scenes during development. Over the course of the
semester, students developed a critical perspective on design for mobile interaction.
The project began by creating a model of the service ecology, which located the
mobile component within a specific system. From the service ecology, students
formulated the initial project constraints in terms of what the mobile app would and
would not address.
Then students advanced to context-assessment techniques, which further defined
relevant moments for the mobile app. Joyce Chou from T-Mobile’s !Creation Center
(!CC) presented user-assessment techniques for understanding audience needs and
wants. Developing a service ecology and employing context-assessment techniques
helped students formulate a project proposal, which described the vision for the mobile
Then Jon Mann from the !CC presented strategies for storyboarding scenarios.
Afterwards, students generated storyboards of an interactive moment with the interface
as well as photographic storyboards of the mobile app in use.
Prarthana Panchal from the !CC standard practices for wireframes, prototypes,
click streams, and interaction priority lists. Students also explored techniques for
rapid prototyping, and discussed best practices for preparing design documents for
programmers with Ric Ewing, from the !CC. Students also received focused software
demonstrations, which integrated five programs within the Adobe Creative Suite. The
demonstrations revealed the strengths of each program and how to streamline the
Students were both eager and nervous about the final presentation. Just as T-Mobile
presented to us, the students presented their final presentation to T-Mobile and the class.
During the presentations, students, visitors, and T-Mobile alike evaluated each
project based on a digitized PDF form with evaluation criteria. After each presentation,
we took a couple minutes to fill out the form, and then opened the floor to discussion.
The T-Mobile team participated in the discussion just as much as the students in the
room. In particular, T-Mobile raised feasibility issues and pointed to specific moments
and techniques in the process that could repair inconsistencies in the final prototype.
I compiled the evaluations for each student and generated a line graph representing
the student’s average for each assessment criterion in comparison to the class’s
average. Visualizing the class average for each criterion also enabled me to assess the
effectiveness of the course, and identify areas in need of improvement.
In the end, students learned a process for designing within interactive systems. They
practiced a framework through which to develop criteria for making design decisions,
learning how to critically analyze affordances of communication technology. They also
learned to nest various formats within a service model, taking advantage of specific
affordances and visualizing the service as a collection of various interactive moments.
Mapping, storyboarding, and prototyping iteratively throughout the process gave
students something concrete and tangible to refine. The course revealed the roles
design plays in mediating and fulfilling a larger purpose as well as opportunities to
influence learning experiences, for the better.