I have completely fallen in love with my iPhone. As far as I can tell it comes as close to the perfectly designed device as possible and it seems like I'm discovering cool usability aspects all the time. Things like when you get a text message with a phone number or email address you get a little blue arrow that lets you email/call or add that to a contact. Doing that on my Blackjack is a pain. And it got me thinking. Is designing for the small screen more fun than designing full fledged applications on the desktop?
Part of me wonders if that was one of appealing things of first moving to the web browser. Creating desktop applications was always kind of tough but customizing them was VERY tough. You were basically stuck with the same component set that everyone else was. But in the browser you could do whatever you wanted. You could get creative with new kinds of UIs and you could basically make components and applications look however you wanted them to look. The browser had a lot more freedom than desktop applications.
On devices it seems like we have even more power to get creative and less room to work with. Instead of thinking about how an application is going to look on a gigantic monitor we only have a small screen. Which means we have to focus on the user interface. We have to design applications that fit a bunch of information into a tiny screen. It's kind of a fun design problem. The iPhone software nailed it and I think the plethora of iPhone applications out there do a pretty good job as well. My favorites are the Facebook application and the Brightkite application.
As mobile platforms become more mature, I think the payoff (gigantic numbers) and intrigue is going to make them a first class design environment. More designers are going to want to work in the small space because of the freedom and creativity it provides. That means we're going to need good, solid design tools for the mobile world. Adobe has been doing some of this with Device Central but I think there's still a long way to go and that it's anyone's game. Designers tend to be very sticky and it's hard to get them to switch from what they know, but a really good design tool targeted at the mobile world could possibly do that. I think in some ways the mobile world is the Wild West of design and there's no sheriff in town yet. In fact, I'd say we've barley got a town. That means there's lots of opportunity for money in these parts.