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Biggest Takeaways from Mobile HCI 2021

The annual Mobile HCI conference, hosted by the University of Toulouse in France, brings together mobile app designers, practitioners, and academics to discuss the future of mobile interactions.

A couple of hours ago the 23rd International Conference on Mobile Human-Computer Interaction came to a close. The annual Mobile HCI conference, hosted by the University of Toulouse in France, brings together mobile app designers, practitioners, and academics to discuss the future of mobile interactions.

This year’s conference was held virtually but still included plenty of workshops, research talks, demos, and poster sessions to give attendees new perspectives on technology, user experience, methodology, and the potential future of mobile app interactions. The academic approach the conference takes means many of the presentations are backed up by full papers and research to provide really rich, data-filled insights.

In addition to the new research coming out of Mobile HCI, the conference is also a great way to get a better understanding of the current trends and concerns mobile app developers are focusing on in 2021. What major features or advancements should enterprises anticipate in the next year? What new innovations can you adopt now to stay ahead of your competitors?

If you missed the conference, here are some of the biggest takeaways from Mobile HCI 2021.

Inclusive Design with Big Data

The opening keynote featured tech ethnographer Tricia Wang discussing the spatial collapse that occurred in 2020. Home, work, and even grocery shopping were all folded into the digital space in a significant way last year. This type of disruption always presents new possibilities, systems, and markets.

A big trend throughout Mobile HCI is how to adapt and take advantage of the massive growth and digital transformation forced on businesses and individuals due to COVID-19. Using Big Data in a more inclusive way is one such opportunity. With the acceleration of our digital lives comes the opportunity and the need for mobile app developers to create even more inclusive designs based on the data available.

Putting UI in Context

There are few hard rules when it comes to user interface design. What works for a festival organizer app may not work for an app for managing a construction site. A big trend this year was evaluating UI in the context of specific industries and use cases to determine the best user flow.

One presentation, “Evaluating Prototype Augmented and Adaptive guidance system to support Industrial Plant Maintenance,” measured how AR could improve performance for plant maintenance. They found an improvement of 21% efficiency, 50% accuracy, and 19% reduced task load for hazardous, repetitive tasks.

Presenting UI/UX Examples Correctly

A big part of working with multiple development teams, in-house and with a digital ventures firm, is setting expectations in the idea stage. Even before prototypes and wireframes, developers are now looking for ways to improve how they collect, archive, and utilize digital examples.

Studies show that the use of examples in the Discover and Develop phases can have a major impact on the project. Making sure these examples can be easily used and understood by all teams can speed up and improve this process, resulting in a better final design.

Battle for the Next Device with Metaverses

Many of the discussions during Mobile HCI were around mobile, AR, and VR and the battle for the next device. As everyone becomes more digitally connected, what will become the dominant device we connect through? How big of a part will AR and VR play?

The closing keynote by XR Consultant, Author, and Columnist, Charlie Fink, shed light on this debate in the context of the metaverse. Facebook made headlines recently with Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he sees the social network as a “metaverse company”. The metaverse is the idea of a convergence of physician, augmented, and virtual reality in a single, shared online space. Is this the future of online interaction?

While some believe AR and VR will win the battle for the next device, mobile applications can benefit from focusing more on experiences and interaction than on physically transporting their users to a virtual space. Designing mobile apps that mimic the engagement and freedom of real-life is far more important than mimicking the sights and sounds of real-life.

Mobile app developers need to keep an eye on the trends and challenges that are pushing our industry forward. Mobile HCI 2021 provided some exciting glimpses at that future and gave developers plenty to think about in the present. If you’d like to learn more about what innovative app design means in 2021, feel free to reach out!