P098: Design Thinking and the Mobile Runtime

Celebrity venture capitalist and all-around smart guy Benedict Evans nailed 16 Mobile Theses to the door last week and it’s a pretty interesting jumping-off point for anyone interested in the mobile space. Part retrospective, part tone-setter for 2016, Evans highlights the topics that he believes most inform the discussions and ideas moving the market these days. Of the sixteen, the one that resonated the most for me was the idea that evolving mobile interaction models are creating new opportunities to find customers and build audiences:

”Really, we’re looking for a new run-time – a new way, after the web and native apps, to build services. That might be Siri or Now or messaging or maps or notifications or something else again. But the underlying aim is to construct a new search and discovery model – a new way, different to the web or app stores, to get users.”

Previously, a linear model of user -> browser -> search -> result dominated consumer interactions on the internet. You used one web browser and (basically) one search engine to go online, find what you need, and deal with it. As these interactions became more and more transaction-based with the rise of e-commerce (to the point now where the “e-“ seems like an old-timey affectation – it’s just commerce) companies began seeking new approaches to capture these transactions.

Platforms emerged from companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, WeChat, Baidu, Tencent, and others pursuing an obsoletive approach by providing a compelling user experience around the core functionality of their products. In the case of the iPhone, this means top notch industrial design, a robust app ecosystem, a fantastic camera, and dead-simple payments complementing the phone/email/messaging/media heart of the device. Then, once the platform owner earns that customer, they are driven to further differentiate their offerings by creating unique user experiences and using those experiences as jumping-off points for discovery, search and other revenue-generating behaviors.

For the user-experience geeks among us, this makes for a truly exciting moment in time. Each step forward in this platform-based services race brings with it new technologies, new ways for people to interact with their devices. And unlike past innovation cycles, the market seems to understand the requirement that design and UX leads the creation of these new services. To all the design thinkers out there: the market has spoken. The budgets are there. Go forth and do your best work.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron