Most of the People, All of The Time

I came across Nokia’s newest ad for the Lumia 920, yesterday.  I thought it could provide an interesting break of levity.  But as I watched it, I actually think there is something that could be learned from the ad for the developers out there.  What platforms do you develop for, and how do you make your choices?  Are you smarter than your users?  First, here is the embed of the ad from YouTube:


I think there are a fair number of developers that do not, and maybe cannot, put themselves in the shoes of their users.  What are their users really using and how are they using it?  Do you rely simply on metrics to see what your users are doing?  If so, are you building contingencies for this trailing indicator.  While “Yesterday’s Weather Theory” is great for how to dress, in this space which changes so fast, it may not be the best.

That’s all good and fine, you say, but I have a limited budget, limited resources, limited time, how do I make the right choice.  First of all, there is no right choice.  Unless that right choice is to develop for every platform out there and be ready for updates the day they come out.  You will always alienate some portion of your potential user base.  For game developers, you go where the money is.  For service providers (like banks), you need to provide good alternatives, as well as explaining to your user base what you are doing.

Let’s look back at the video.  What gets me about the video is that each of the jabs that are made and each of the boasts are all true.  I have an iPhone5 and I absolutely envy the size of some of the Android phones out there.  While I don’t wish my screen was quite the size of a pizza box (sorry, I kid) I do wish it was a little bigger.  I like the version control that Apple provides for iOS and am flummoxed by what I perceive on the Android side as uncontrolled (well, controlled by the carrier) chaos.  The truth is that each of those users has a point.  While rioting at a wedding may not be the best way to express one’s opinion, it doesn’t detract from the truth.

Your users are choosing their phone not because of what you offer to them, they are choosing their phone for a host of other reasons.  While your app may be the greatest thing for stock trading, users don’t go to the local carrier store and ask which phone runs this app the best.  They buy the phone and then find out your app doesn’t work on it.  If that is the case, you may end up with an angry user posting to some forum about your lack of support for their favorite phone.  And guess what, they really do love that phone, and by not supporting it you are calling their baby “ugly and stupid.”  No one likes to hear that their choice was wrong, and that is what you are doing.  While some of you may be tempted to cry out to some of your users to “get a real mobile” I would suggest not saying that out loud in a public forum.

I talked about alternatives.  The best alternative is to turn to the mobile web.  Remember the good old days of iOS 1?  When all those early adopters cried – what, no apps?  What did we do?  We used bookmarked web pages and relied on the tools that Safari gave us.  Your developers are smart enough in this area to develop truly compelling user experiences for the mobile web, and within the constraints of mobile screen real estate.  Even this will not please all of your users and potential users all the time.

So, go back to the video, laugh alittle and try to please as many of your users as you can, offer decent alternatives to those you are leaving behind and have good reasons why.  And by good reasons, I mean reasons that you are comfortable putting up on your Facebook page and being posted on the fan forums for the platform that you just disrespected.

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