When it comes to designing native apps for mobile devices, we find that the most successful ones are those that begin with an outside-in vs inside-out view. The inside-out view starts by looking at a desktop application and making decisions about what functionality to include in the native mobile app. With this approach, conversations tend to focus on technical implementation and creating some pared-down version of the existing feature set. The outside-in view starts by looking at users, understanding their need in a mobile context and designing for that. The desktop application is leveraged of course, but the initial point of reference for the design exercise is the user.

When taking the outside-in approach, we start by getting answers to the following types of questions to inform product, design and development decisions:

Who: Which user-types or personas would benefit from mobile access?

Why: Apart from portability and convenience, why else would users benefit from mobile access?

Where: Where would mobile use occur? Will users have both hands available? Are they in motion? What else are they doing before/during/after? Will they have reliable access to data or Wi-Fi? Et cetera.

What: What device(s) do they use? Are they iOS, Android or Windows users? Phone or tablet? What hardware that’s unique to mobile (relative to desktop) could help them?

How: How could mobile access change their workflows for the better?

Worth noting, in taking the outside-in approach and engaging users up front, clients are often pleasantly surprised that multiple new product opportunities are revealed beyond the initial app that was envisioned.

Beyond native apps, Spire also designs responsive web apps and sites using grid frameworks. In doing so, we’re not just designing desktop views, but also creating designs that scale to tablet and mobile views. We define breakpoints, and then define and design optimal patterns, controls, elements, relative type sizes, click/touch target sizes for each breakpoint e.g. tables for 1024+ and cards under 1024, form panels or dynamic forms for mobile, full page forms for desktop, and so on.

We go through this level of effort for every web project. We believe that every user deserves a great experience regardless of the type of device they’re using at that moment.

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