Mobile has shifted focus of developer workflow: panel

TORONTO—When it comes to developing and designing digital content, the increasing proliferation of smart phones and tablets means a reversed workflow where the initial focus must now be on building first for mobile devices then repurposing for the desktop, said one exec with Adobe Systems Inc.

Richard Galvan, Adobe product manager for Flash, said during a panel discussion as part of FITC, an annual conference last week for digital developers and designers, that connectivity to the Web today has switched to the mobile device, making the desktop secondary.

Yet, that also introduces some complexities in the developer/designer workflow, said Galvan, given the different requirements when building apps for mobile. Performance, for instance, is one such challenge that gets enhanced in mobile apps. “Things that you can get away with on the desktop, you can’t get away with on mobile,” said Galvan.

But, generally, across all platforms, end user’s expectations regarding how data is consumed on the Web has also risen. Mark Anders, another panelist and Adobe Fellow, said digital experience is not just about clicking on a Web site or app anymore; end users want to have a “fundamental bond” with the device and interact via a broad range of user gestures.

“If it doesn’t perform well, you shatter the illusion,” said Anders.

For end users, the definition of data has changed because what you can do on one platform is expected to be more or less the same on another, said Anders. “The whole notion of what data is and how you interact with is becoming much more pervasive,” he said.

Within the creation workflow itself, design plays a significant role in a successful digital experience, even though, as a vendor of design and development tools, Adobe has spent a large part of its effort on the development portion. Panelist Deepa Subramaniam, senior product manager for the Flex SDK with Adobe, said Adobe now has begun to more evenly spread its focus across the entire lifecycle of developer to designer to testing to deploying.

As for where digital experience might be headed next, Galvan said he is intrigued by advancements in how end users can interact with content around them. Galvan foresees richer capabilities for end users to interconnect between devices. For instance, interacting with store billboards via a mobile device upon entering a retail store is one such direction.

Nick La, Toronto-based independent Web designer attending FITC this year, hasn’t yet designed for mobile apps but, as with the panellists, does think that the proliferation of smart phones and tablets might very well lead to a shift in workflow that will place focus on mobile devices before desktop. That said, he still thinks it whittles down to personal preference of the designer or developer.

But La does agree with panellists that heightened user demands for a digital experience means that designers and developers have some catching up to do. La said the changing landscape of mobile devices has impacted him in that he must make an effort to learn more about the new mobile platforms on the market and new technologies such as JavaScript.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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