Mobile Web Design Trends: Q&A with Dave Fletcher

Top mobile design experts share their secrets for staying ahead of the curve in this fast-changing industry.

Whether you're just getting started designing for the mobile web or you're trying to help clients understand how they can take advantage of the latest mobile web developments, knowing where to look for information can be challenging. To simplify the task, we asked some accomplished mobile web design experts to share their thoughts on how to succeed and keep pace in this exciting, ever-evolving field.

Our first interviewee is Dave Fletcher, founder and DEO (design executive officer) of The Mechanism, a digital agency based in New York City. For more than two decades, this noted design expert has explored a wide range of media, including interactive design, print, video and photography for clients around the globe.

What's a mobile trend that's working well?

You've probably heard a great deal about the "Internet of Things." Apple has announced HomeKit, which will turn your iPhone into a remote control for your interconnected home. To expand on this, eventually, we will live with systems that plug into an artificial or ambient intelligence to manage your life, curate your interests, drive a vehicle and keep track of your day-to-day travels. It will never force you to remove yourself from an existing experience to use a website to research what the network will already know you're looking for.

What's a mobile trend you wish would just go away?


How do you determine whether a client needs an app, mobile-specific site or responsive site to reach their customers via mobile devices?

Dave Fletcher

Typically, the answer emerges from an honest and collaborative conversation with our client partner about their audience, their ambitions and their budget. The audience is key here, and in most cases, the client has an idea from either Google Analytics or other research as to what type of device or devices their end users have.

Mobile plans, available carriers and speed of connectivity based on geolocation of the target audience are important yet often overlooked factors when it comes to a mobile initiative. They should be researched as well so we have an understanding of these factors during the planning phase.

If the client requires deep integration with a smartphone operating system that simply cannot be replicated within the smartphone browser's capabilities or there are very serious security concerns, a discussion about appropriate mobile operating systems and native app development can take place.

To address the "mobile-specific site" or "responsive site" question: A digital experience should always be designed and built to render and function appropriately on all devices.

What are your favorite mobile sites that designers can learn from? Why do they stand out to you?

I believe that designers who engage in mobile need to learn to be predictive of the future. It moves fast. Mashable is a place to see a wide range of trends, as well as curated news, information and content about mobile. The information is useful, well organized and current.

I also follow Patently Apple very closely. It gives a glimpse of where Apple might be headed with the mobile space far down the road. Since they still are the company that the industry clamors to follow, I'm certain that other phone/tech developers are following that site to plan their internal product road maps as well. 

The World Future Society provides another look into what's coming next with noted futurists' dissertations on technology, commerce and mobile devices. It's always enlightening and exciting.

What resources do you recommend for designers who want to get into mobile?

"The Pocketnow Weekly" is an honest, well-produced and current podcast. In the show notes, you'll get a good handle on the links and the people on the show. There are plenty of other podcasts as well, but this is a great starting point.

If you want to learn about a technology, attend conferences about that technology. Future Insights Live is a good one. They have a nice, diverse group of speakers. Mobile+Web DevCon and the Global Mobile Internet Conference are others that come to mind.

In addition to instructional videos, you can find software development kits (SDKs) online. Android and Apple are the first ones to dig into; SDKs allow you to learn how to program within their environments and they are typically available for free.

There's never any excuse to avoid taking the time to expand your knowledge and skill set to prepare for the future.

Stay tuned. Next Friday, we will post our second installment in this series, an interview with Alissa Briggs.  

Related post: Job of the Future: The Rise of the DEO (Design Executive Officer)