What have you been most amazed that your mobile device can do?
And just like that, the entire room exploded. 300 designers, strategists, and general techchampions attended Luke Wroblewski's Mobile Web Design workshop, an intensive add-on to An Event Apart. Hanging on every word Luke said, entranced by his unparalleled presentation style (the man makes Keynote into an artform), we passed 8 hours like kids in a tech-centric candy store. Okay, clearly I've tasted the @lukew Koolaid, but listen to the guy for 5 minutes and you’ll understand why.
He encourages us to rethink everything we have learned about mobile and takes us back to the most important element: our audience. Today’s workshop wasn’t focused on the microscience of kerning or the philosophical implications of a content management system; it was about how to create mobile experiences that make sense. From identifying best practices for input options to offering a side-by-side review of patterns in responsive web design, Luke blew our minds with insights that kept everyone wondering “how did I not think of that?”
And that was the best part – it wasn’t rocket science. Simple nuggets of philosophy like “let’s do less things, but do them better”, or “if it’s valuable on the desktop, it’s valuable on mobile” sent attendees furiously typing, or tweeting as the case may be. Our role as creators, whether you build with code or with words, is to help our audience do things better. It’s just that simple. And that role is increasingly valuable in an evolving mobile universe. ‘Universe’ seem like a dramatic turn of phrase? 4 BILLION text messages are sent every day in the US. I still can’t wrap my brain around that one.
Everyone who follows the digital world knows that mobile is the next major medium (and if you are reading this, I would assume you do – or you’re my mom. Hi mom.) Luke takes it one step further and suggests that mobile is in fact a 7th form of mass media, literally consuming every step that came before it.
There was so much wisdom shared that I almost feel as if I’m doing a disservice with this summary, but at the end of the day, mobile devices shape our world because of three key aspects: they’re constantly carried, they’re always on, and they’re available at the point of inspiration.
This last point is the one that really hit me (note the restrained absence of an ‘inspire’ pun). We see a beautiful sunset, and pull out our phones to take a picture. We’re hungry for something delicious in a new part of town, and pull out our phones to look for reviews, because there’s an app for that. Smartphones give us opportunity to perform simple everyday tasks, but do them better. Don’t waste a sunny afternoon in line at the Apple store waiting for someone with a name tag to validate your existence, use a Self-Checkout option on your handset and walk out the door with your newest toy in a fraction of the time. Yeah, that functionality is coming. Soon.
As marketers, we work every day to help our clients strengthen their brands. And if there is one point I took away from this week with the strongest clarity, it’s that brands who think of their users, and provide them a better experience, build a stronger brand. It’s just that simple. There will be challenges along the way, at least a dozen of which may involve an IT consultant or a legal department, but we have to push forward.
So when Luke asked all of us to turn to our neighbors and discuss the most impressive thing we had seen on a handset, it was our turn for show-and-tell. Some people referenced check deposits via scanning. Others, Instagram location-stamping. Personally, I can’t wait until I can buy a carton of eggs while waiting for the subway.
After three days of incredible insight (only one of which included rain), @stevemahn and I are ready to go home. We are ready to bring all this magic back to HLK, and apply it to not only our existing clients, but also any other brave organizations who want to jump in on this wild ride. The #aeasea Koolaid was refreshing, it was inspiring, and it tasted like gummy bears.