Yesterday I railed against the limitations of the US mobile phone market. One of my pleasures has been using the Treo, which has a very open software market (I still haven’t switched to the iPhone, despite incredible longing, since it’s not ready for biz yet. Sprint, my current carrier, is working hard to drive me away, however, so it won’t be long.) This article explains why the Treo has been such a satisfying platform (except for the creakiness of the OS), documenting the design principles behind the Palm environment and how to design applications for limited devices. I found it through a history of Palm, starting with Jeff Hawkins way way back with the Zoomer. The principles are useful for mobile in general.
And these principles are really good, including the sweet spot (and how to extend it), using the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) to hit the 80% of the capabilities people need. Another great way to think differently: the inverse relationship between PCs and mobile devices – short interactions frequently versus fewer longer usages.
There’re some really cute zen riddles (which they answer) that help you think differently, too. For example: how do you fit a mountain in a teacup? (Mine the diamonds; do you really want the rocks and dirt?) With such a sound basis for those first four apps: Memos, ToDos, Calendar, and Address Book, how could Apple miss two of them?
Overall, a nice exercise in thinking mobile design and worth a look. I’ll likely have to incorporate some of this into my mobile presentations, e.g. as part of the mobile learning pre-conference symposium at DevLearn, in Colombia at eLearning 07, and possibly TechKnowledge.