Context is sort of connected to goals in that you ask yourself how does this product fit into the person's life and environment and help them achieve their goals. So, you're moving beyond just thinking about your little phone screen and thinking one degree further out into the life into which this thing you're designing will fit. Some questions to ask around context are, in what setting will it be used. You know things that are weird in one context might be perfectly acceptable in another context. Will it be used for extended periods of time? You know will they sitting on their couch and using it for awhile, or will they be using it while they're commuting on BART and standing on a packed train? Is the person going to be frequently interrupted or do you have their undivided attention? Will there be multiple people using this same one device, right, like an ATM, or some kind of terminal? Will it be used in conjunction with other products? Think, uh... Samsung has this line of products c...
alled SmartThings and it's like connected home stuff and they, those, these SmartThings hub work with lots of different other lights, things. They work with lights, they work with thermostats, they work with all kinds of stuff, so that's another question to ask when you're designing. Of course, what is the expected end result? What's the goal? And how much complexity is permissible? How complicated can we make it based on what we know about the people that are going to use it? So, again, you know, context is super important because you know, even the, this previous example of asking all this information before you go into a supermarket, all this intimate information, you know, in that context is weird, but in other contexts, it makes perfect sense to divulge much more intimate information than just your name and your email address. Or the example of here, here, like in the one on the left, they're asking for email, first name, last name, job title, company, country, state and all of the fields are required. So, that's, in that, when you're just trying to (mumbles) some report, that you don't even really care about that much, that's way too much. But in the context of a system that's really closed tied to your identity, because you know, you don't want to be driving with weirdos in your car, it makes a lot more sense to ask for a lot of information up front. Another thing to think about with context is, you know, which devices we're working on. So, laptop and desktop computers, you will almost always be seated at a table somewhere, so users are, and you'll always know that people are using like a mouse and a keyboard as an input, I mean sometimes I have a trackpad, but basically, you know what they're going to be using and where they're going to be using it. And, since we know this, we can design PC applications for finer controls like mouse clicks and hover states that require additional information. On the other hand, mobile devices can be used anywhere. A lot of people talk about mobile users as being on the go, and that's definitely a real scenario. For example, here in this barcode scanning app, you know you have a barcode scanner that let's you compare prices on product. Chances are the context of using that is you're gonna be at a store, scanning a product. But you know if you're using IMDB, the internet movie database, you're just as likely to be at home or at a friend's house, looking up the information you just saw about an actor on TV. So, the data backs this up. If you look at this chart here, most people use their mobile phones both at home and outside. And of course, this makes sense, think about how often you've sat on your couch, browsing your phone with the TV on. Think about how often you're at your desk, should have been working, instead you were checking Facebook. So, makes total sense that most people use it both at home and outside. But I also think it's interesting that only 10% of respondents use their phone mainly outside of the house. So, for almost everyone it's quite balanced. To summarize, in a simple equation, we can say, who plus what plus when plus where equals context. And it's really important to take the time up front to really think through your user's context when they use your product. You know goals plus context, if you don't have that, you can't really decide which devices are best suited to the needs of the people. And also if you do this, you're ahead of most designers in the world right now. I know where, here in the Valley where we're surrounded by brilliant people, it feels as if everybody knows this but, in real life, it's more often than not, it's more the way it was when I started out in my career, when people had no idea what design was and they thought I was some kind of magician. It's really, really important to keep, when you're out in the real world, every time you're confronted with a new problem, it's, first thing to always ask is, what's the goal of the people using this, what are they trying to accomplish. So, a lot of times, you can do that even before, well even reading what the problem is about, just being like oh, they just present you with something and you'll be like, what's the goals, though and what context are they using it. And that gives you some more information to start thinking about how best to solve this problem. I really like the way Luke Wroblewski puts it, he says to design for the user's context, and not for the device.