Mobile Design. Sans Frontieres.

Although I find myself intrigued by the convergence of computer science, human computer interaction (HCI) design and international development, it’s not often that I find myself in a room of experts. They’re just not places I tend to mix, most likely because I have no professional IT qualifications, let alone a computer science degree, and I’ve done most of my own software design off-the-cuff, much to the dismay of people who hoped there was a robust process behind it.

Last August I got my first taste of the very real challenges that the computer science world faces when it comes up against the equally real challenges of international development. The meeting – convened at UC Berkeley – was an eye-opener for me to say the least, and as I left I blogged about how thankful I was that it wasn’t me who had to come up with the answers. You can read that post here.

A little later in the year I was invited to speak at the First International Workshop on Expressive Interactions for Sustainability and Empowerment, held at one of Vodafone’s London offices. The topic of conversation was similar, but here the focus was on how to build mobile tools that work in difficult, challenging, ‘foreign’ environments. Following my talk I was invited by the Editor of Interfaces, John Knight, to contribute an article to the next edition of their magazine.

For the article I teamed up with Joel Selanikio, co-founder of and the creator of the EpiSurveyor mobile data collection tool. It made sense working with Joel for a number of reasons. Not only have I known and admired him and his work for some time, but Joel is first and foremost a paediatrician. For him – like me – understanding the problem takes priority over the technology, consideration of which should always come last. FrontlineSMS and EpiSurveyor have both evolved from time spent in the field – observing, experiencing and understanding before designing, developing and building.

You can read our thoughts on the process – “Ten things you might want to know before building for mobile – in the current edition of Interfaces magazine (PDF, 2.5Mb).

For further posts on the subject see the “Mobile applications development” section of this blog, which includes a 10 minute video on the topic.

35 thoughts on “Mobile Design. Sans Frontieres.

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  6. Debs says:

    Thanks for the link to the Interfaces mag, Kenny! Some really interesting articles. And nice to see your thinking evolve, and hear from both you and Joel. Good to hear people writing from experience. 🙂

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  18. J Newlands says:

    Very useful summary of your experiences — would be good to read more of these types of posts/articles from people who have developed tools and services, assuming they’re willing to share

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  23. Allegra says:

    When Senior Management cannot get a new idea.They bring in the HCI dude to help…which never works or they bring in the HCI guy to make a pig pretty which never works.

    Interesting that what Vodafone are doing, however Vodafone do not practice what they preach in terms of Inclusive design and UCD. So, its just publicity to me and it means nothing. Anyone that has a great idea will never take it to any of the conferences and most cool ideas are lock away in Company Vaults.

    Sorry, to be DOOM and GLOOM about it but its the fact.

    Being an Ergnomist or HCI Guru is a thank less job and pays pea nuts.

    Also, everyone ignore’s you. Ask an HCI manager and he will tell u the truth about the real world of coperate life as a HCI Guru.

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