Device Fatigue

X: Hey Brad, what kind of phone/tablet/e-reader/laptop/net-book/doodad should I get?

Me: I don’t know.

X: C’mon, you do this stuff for a living! Surely you know all about the latest gizmos, right?

Me: I honestly have no idea.

X: Thanks for nothing, asshole.

Keeping up with the device landscape is a full-time job. I take my dog outside to poop only to come back and find that 17 new Android devices have been released. And boy do they look good. Quad core processors, 12 megapixel camera, double kickstand, HD Super AMOLED screen and a whammy bar.

No fewer than 33 mainstream connected devices were released in the past two months. Unless you’re a writer for The Verge there’s no way in hell you’re going to be able to keep track of every device make, model, manufacturer, capability, carrier and every combination thereof.

This is just the beginning

This is just the beginning

Fatigued

I suffer from device fatigue. The exponential growth of connected devices coming down the pipes has caused me to shut down. I just don’t care anymore. Not that kind of “I just don’t care anymore,” but rather a realization that it’s increasingly futile to concern myself with every device that gets spit out of the ol’ rectangle factory. “Have you seen the iPad Mini!?” Yeah, neat. “OMG Microsoft Surface.” Sure, looks promising. “Samsung Galaxy Nexus S3 4G LTE Lightning Edition” Yup. Keep em’ coming.

My remedy for device fatigue has been to take a step back and let my eyes go unfocused. Much like a Magic Eye, I can then see the hidden pictures behind the stippled noise that is the device landscape. This remedy helps me cope, gets me to stop caring about things that don’t really matter, and gets me to care about the broader trends the Magic Eye unveils.

Totally #Trending

Instead of concerning myself with specifics, I’m able to focus on where things are going. Here’s what trends I’m seeing now:

There’s more to it than this, but you get the point. Come back in a year and these trends will most likely be entirely different.

Of course we still have jobs to do. At some point we have to actually make things for real people that are using real devices. But by not getting bogged down by every specific speed bump we encounter, we’re able to plan ahead and focus on what really matters in the grand scheme of things.

Future Friendly

Disruption will only accelerate. The quantity and diversity of connected devices—many of which we haven’t imagined yet—will explode, as will the quantity and diversity of the people around the world who use them. —Future Friendly

Presently, it’s still possible to keep up with every device out there right now, but just wait until we have a load of bears, bats and bees on our hands. It’s just a matter of time before it becomes literally impossible to keep track of every connected gizmo on the face of the earth.

The way I see it, the goal is to get to a point where you can walk into a carrier store, blindly pick up any device, fire up your project and behold it in all its glory. The goal is to get a point where your organization doesn’t go into cardiac arrest every damn time Apple holds a keynote. The goal is to assume less and reach more people as a result.

In the words of the great Lyza Danger Gardner, relinquish control and lay down your burdens.

8 Comments

  1. “My remedy for device fatigue has been to take a step back and let my eyes go unfocused. Much like a Magic Eye, I can then see the hidden pictures behind the stippled noise that is the device landscape. This remedy helps me cope, gets me to stop caring about things that don’t really matter, and gets me to care about the broader trends the Magic Eye unveils.”

    That is, to me, the money quote in this article. The platforms (Android and Windows) that you mentioned in the trends strike me as more offshoots of the never ending device parade, but the trends around touch and content parity are so critically important in that context.

    Thanks as always, Brad!

  2. Great article!

    For me it’s like 1998.
    One site, 2 or 3 versions to work with IE, Netscape, IE for mac, linux (linux? oh!)…

    The problem is the same.

    Nothing is 100% even in computer science :-)

    Don’t focus on technology.
    Focus on your idea, content. Do it really good.

    Focus on your audience. The real problem is making your message get to them. Email, html, flash, html5… this is just the tools, and they change every day.

    I’m not an expert in future, but I bet we’ll have similar problems 10 years from now.

    For me every webdesigner(or just ‘designer’) should make banners (yes, banners!) for a year!

    If you can pass a message in 468×60 pixels, you can pass any message on any canvas size!
    :-D

  3. @rvllas

    The old battle is indeed the same as the new battle: content over form.

    However, it looks like you’re pretty quick to dismiss form over content, while the right way to get it right is to give an equally important part of your focus on both. This is a pretty subtle balance to strike.

    People that focue on content over form end up just like Barack Obama (otherwise president of the US for a few more years) with a website of about 4MB for each page. Man, that’s content.

    You say two things that are the complete opposite: “Don’t focus on technology” and “The real problem is making your message get to them”. And tha

  4. @rvllas

    The old battle is indeed the same as the new battle: content over form.

    However, it looks like you’re pretty quick to dismiss form over content, while the right way to get it right is to give an equally important part of your focus on both. This is a pretty subtle balance to strike.

    People that focue on content over form end up just like Barack Obama (otherwise president of the US for a few more years) with a website of about 4MB for each page. Man, that’s content allright!

    You say two things that are the complete opposite: “Don’t focus on technology” and “The real problem is making your message get to them”. And that last sentence’s answer is just technology. If you want your content delivered, you’re just going to have to care about technology.

    Deal with it. Your readers have devices in their hands, not the W3C RFCs.

  5. @pieroxy

    Technology is not the answer, but how you use is.

    Don’t let technology stop you from doing something. Otherwise you’ll never do something that has never (or can’t) been done.

    A 4MB page is a bad, really bad idea, at least today – in 1998 100kb page was a bad idea…

    Making a great site from a good idea is better (and easier) than making from a bad idea.

    First have a great idea, and then make a good site, using all the tools and formarts you can.

    Devices are the medium. If your idea needs a new Device, make one. Break all the rules – just master all them first.

  6. @rvillas

    I see our differences are only in semantics. I’m not saying technology is the answer or that you should not try to get ahead of it.

    But I still disagree with your statement “Don’t focus on technology”. Technology is your channel to get something through to your your users. Sooner or later you have to focus on it otherwise you get nothing through.

    The point is, how much should you focus on it vs how much focus to you need to get to your content. Your content should get the best of it, I agree.

    But if you don’t focus at all on technology you’re going to let some users on the side of the road. That’s not good either.

    I would rewrite your sentence as “Don’t focus too much on technology”. Here I agree 100%.

    cheers

  7. Device manufacturers have to take resposonbiity for rendering modern standard website properly.

    As designers we can’t be expected to test on every device as this post proves!

  8. Once the iPad mini came out, I realized that we really can’t just design for each major device out there, but rather get smarter about how we design sites in general.