The Interactive portion of SXSW kicked off today and we start our coverage with the UX of Mobile. Thanks to the iPhone we now have a whole new benchmark on the user experience of smartphones.

The World According to the iPhone

For the most part – mobile has become relevant with the introduction of devices that turned user experience equation on its head. I’m talking about the iPhone, obviously. The sheer fact that my 2 year old daughter can pick up an iPhone and watch videos on you tube by navigating between videos she likes (I approve each view) and that she can find and launch toddler games, play games that they actually help develop her matching and shape recognition skills -- is something that would never have been possible on another device. 

This new reality in device usability has -- as one might expect -- made mobile something everyone is now taking note of. Ecommerce is now possible, publications can create experience where content consumption is no longer a painful equation, multimedia is enjoyable. Today’s discussion acknowledged that large multinational brands and small business are both flocking to the iPhone as the default project.

The projects that agencies are working on are either iPhone optimized only or iPhone optimized and an experience for all the other devices (dialed down to the lowest common denominator).  This is just the reality of the market -- and although it may not be the correct way to think about projects -- it’s a reality agencies have to face with clients on most mobile initiatives.

As designers, the end product is more rewarding -- both personally and based on reactions from users and clients or business owners. So when you wrap up the project, you are happy with the end result, your client or business owner is happy and everyone wins. Right? Maybe.

But its Not About the iPhone Really

Scott Jenson of Google did a good job on today’s panel of reminding us that it’s not about the iPhone or Android for that matter. It’s not about the technology that’s here and now -- it’s about tomorrow. It’s about your users. It’s about watching them interact with your mobile website -- and then learning -- and changing before you push to market to meet your date.

It’s about realizing that web design best practices don’t just carry over. It’s a new world, and there was a shared desire by the panelists that the iPhone is not the standard -- there was a desire to see more. There was a desire that we don’t design for iPhone but that we ask our users what device they are on before we start.

So if you are a business owner -- remember that if 80% of your users are on Blackberry -- you should design for blackberry first, then when you get more budget next year -- make the cool iPhone app.

I know you know this conceptually -- just represent it and stand-up for it when you need to. The C suite will probably understand if you make your case correctly. If they still don’t -- well, let’s not go there. 

If your user base is on multiple devices, test them -- it’s not one size fits all with mobile, there are different screen sizes, different navigational elements and testing the devices and watching your users on the devices you build for will require more time and money.

But you should do it. If you have hard deadlines, do it in phases. Just don’t skimp on it. Remember it’s a different world from traditional web -- and accept that we are all always learning and adapting to this ever changing industry.