Many UI standards, one app? Local UI conventions be damned?

We had it so easy on the web. You make your app once, and it ran everywhere. Sure, we had to contend with some nasty browser wars, but we learned how to work around those, and it all worked out in the end.

Now we’re back in trouble.

Developing for mobile means developing for iOS and Android, at least. Not only are they different OS’s (analogous to different browsers), but worse, they have different UI standards and expectations by their users.

So you can’t just create 1 UI for your app anymore, in an ideal world, you create mutliple UI’s.

Except, I am not convinced it works that way. I haven’t seen apps that successfully create many different experiences, each tailored to a different OS and set of UI expectations. The WinPho Twitter app, for example, kind of follows WinPho conventions, but it seems cobbled together and lacking, compared to their iOS app. It’s the same with most apps.

On the other side, the more successful apps seem to be creating 1 experience and porting it to multiple platforms, local UI expectations be damned. (Facebook, Path, etc. have essentially the same app, with very small concessions to local UI conventions, on different platforms).

It’s a conundrum. I’m not sure what the answer will turn out to be. Will we make different UI’s for different OS’s? Will some kind of “generic”, cross-OS UI conventions evolve (despite the OS owner’s best efforts to avoid this)? That’s where my money is right now, but I could change my mind tomorrow. Or perhaps we’ll all end up in HTML5 app land (although that is starting to seem unlikely; if it was going to happen, wouldn’t it have happened already by now?)


What (some of) the industry is thinking for 2012

GigaOm has a good series of quotable thoughts by some industry leaders.

Scott Mcnealy:

  • “Somebody has to step in front of the open source parade any really lead it”
  • “What Steve Jobs understood was that he was more like Calvin Klein than he was like Andy Bechtolsheim.”
  • “I’m chairman, not CEO, which is sort of like being a grandfather instead of a father, which is way better in dirty-diaper mode.”
  • “I stepped down from Sun eight years ago because my boys were 2, 4, 6 and 8 years old, and I wanted to be with them. Now, they’re 10, 12, 14 and 16. Wayne Gretzky’s kids never really got to see him play hockey. My boys are getting to see me do what I do.”

Matt Mullenweg: (wordpress)

  • “I worry about the independent web. – I hope this is the most closed it will ever be in my lifetime.” –> Amen to this, by the way.
  • “There are 20,000 or 30,000 people that make their living from WordPress.”
  • “I think we’re going to enter a golden age of design, just by virtue of thousands and thousands of founders and designers asking themselves, “What would Steve do?””

Philip Rosendale: (secondlife)

  • “Mostly, of course, you want to make money. But try to make money in a way that is epic and awesome.”
  • “Investors ask, “Who’s the customer, and what existing market are you servicing?” We said, “We don’t know, and there isn’t one.””

Mary Lou Jepsen:

  • “The LCD industry is in meltdown. The losses are huge and have been for the last five years or so.”
  • “For the tier one companies, it’s not about the hardware anymore. It’s about hardware, software, content. And content suppliers are king right now. – They all make the same products and compete on price.”
  • “One challenge for next year is whether the industry, our customers, find an interesting tablet that isn’t just like the iPad but cheaper. Certainly Amazon is making a go of it.”

Padmasree Warrior: (cisco)

  • “I truly believe that leadership is something that you have to be involved with in terms of the details as well as the strategy.”

Dennis Crowley: (foursquare)

  • “We have a lot of ex-Googlers here and we’ve taken a lot of the Google culture that we really like and applied it to Foursquare. For example, people do weekly snippets and we have a pretty strong review process and pretty strong interview process.”
  • “People know us for check-ins but with the data, we want to push people more toward the recommendation engine and the way to do that is make that prominent and a big part of the app.”
  • “We’re at 15 million users now and the next stop is 20, 25, 50 million users.”

Caterina Fake: (flickr, hunch)

  • “We are sensitive to certain stimuli, so that when we were Neanderthals dragging our knuckles on the ground we’d say, “Ooh! A berry!” and pluck it. That feeling is reproduced in our brains with Twitter, Facebook updates, and especially games.”
  • “my goal is to sleep later”

Dave Morin: (Path)

  • “2012 will truly be the year of mobile Internet.”
  • “Find the users who see your vision and talk to them. Find out why they love the product and what they’re trying to do with it. Often, they’re trying to do something that you haven’t designed it for. You need to unlock that potential.”

Elon Musk: (paypal)

  • “The way I see it is that all transportation will go electric except for rockets, ironically.”