“How can you convert an app designed for a 17 inch screen to one designed for a 3 inch screen?” This is one of the most common questions/requests I have heard from CIOs over the last decade – ever since the first mobile data devices showed up in 1999 – was how can you convert an app designed for a 17 inch screen to one designed for a 3 inch screen?
I spent 7 years trying to solve that problem with my first startup Everypath. We were pioneers in software in a category now called MEAPs. There were more than 75 other companies in the space at that time. We all came up with different tools and models to help people build mobile applications for the new form factors/new devices. Some of those companies still exist – Antenna Software, Syclo (acquired by SAP), etc. The new MEAP platforms provide good tools to build apps for different devices and different form factors. More on MEAPs in a future post.
There were a few companies who claimed that they could automatically convert apps for the smaller form factors. But the user experience on these converted applications was less than desirable. This is not surprising. Most good user experience is achieved as a result of a careful understanding of the problems one is trying to solve, design-centric thinking, user experience research, and experimentation.
There is no good automatic solution. So to all those folks in IT looking for a silver bullet to help them with their form factor problems: there isn’t one. If you need to target a specific form factor and create an optimal user experience, you will have to use one of the MEAPs to build a new app!
No shortcuts. Unfortunately.