On the Friday of Drupalcon London we ran a Mobile Usability Testing Session on Drupal's admin interface.
We had a strong turnout, with lots of enthusiasm from the testers. We managed to test the UI on the following devices:
- Nokia N900
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc
- HTC Sensation
- Samsung galaxy s2
- iPad 2
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 3G
Here are some of the thoughts I came away with after the session.
We have dug ourselves a hole
By not bothering to give mobile a second of thought up until now we've put ourselves in a bad situation. Feedback ranged from "doable" to "frustrating" to "impossible". We are so far behind it's not even funny, it's just embarrassing.
Users on small screens has to constantly zoom in and out to navigate around the interface and read information. Users on touch screens had trouble performing simple tasks. Users on slow connections were left wondering if their network had dropped or if the app had crashed.
In some cases — the admin page panels — we've actually hard coded the layout into the back end.
We can't afford to ignore mobile
In Egypt, India, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, 50+% of mobile users never or infrequently use a desktop computer. UK, USA and China all sit at 22%, 25% and 30% respectively. That's still over one in five.
Based on current predictions Global mobile data traffic will grow 26 times over in the next five years.
These are all compelling reasons to support mobile in the future. But I'm surprised we don't want to support it yesterday.
Photographers have a saying: "The best camera is the one you have with you when something worth photographing happens." This will often be a pocket camera or a phone camera; people typically carry professional-grade cameras only when they plan to shoot photos.
Similarly, the best computer is the one you have with you when you want something done.
How many of us, as developers or site builders, have been on the road when we've received an angry text or an email from a client asking us to fix something on the site? At worst it should be possible to do this from where ever we are. At best we should be able to do it quickly and confidently.
Isn't this something we would like to offer our clients also?
There is no such thing as a desktop only task
Just because it's complicated doesn't mean that people won't need to do it on the go. We can't ignore the tough problems like the modules or permissions page because we hopefully assume people wouldn't even bother.
How do we fix our process?
How do we stop ourselves digging ourselves deeper and deeper? Before we start bailing out water we have to plug the leak.
By the way, the Wordpress admin UI is going responsive in November of this year.
Drupal Eight is coming out in two.