Contextual Applications

Following on from my Flash on the Beach session on Contextual App development you can hear some of the ideas and values for products that run everywhere.  I thought I would skim over the first principles of Contextual Apps, which is a term you’ll hear coming out of MAX this year.

So last year we coined the term “multi-screen”, it was used to describe applications that ran on desktop-mobile-TV and the web.  What we learnt is that this is confusing, and for some it alluded to write-once run anywhere.  Over the past months we’ve started to fine tune this idea and build a picture of how applications are experienced, and therefore designed to run on different platforms.  It turns out that screen resolution or by platform design isn’t enough because users have different intentions for each, so “Contextual apps” describes a model where the user, the platform and their location, time etc all play a part in the development of a product.

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Context isn’t just about Flash, after all most Flash experiences are within the browser which is a context.  Above you can see the varying interfaces and interaction models used by the New York Times company across platforms, everything from the desktop to mobile, paper to wap and passive to interactive contexts.  Each of these applications is build using the same back-end services and content, but with varying business models.  It’s important to recognize when Advertising is a better business model that subscription, payment is contextual too.

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Fanbase is an example that you are probably all familiar with by now from Atlantic Records and AgencyNet.  The desktop application is a fully fledged experience including notifications, chat, audio, video and pictures.  Yet in the mobile and TV versions some of these features were removed because they aren’t relevant for those contexts.  In the Digital Home you are probably more interested in listening to music and watching video, it’s about understanding the passive nature of the big screen.  In fact Fanbase on the desktop also has a button to change the interface into a widgetized view, reflecting the use case where a user wants to work/browse whilst connecting with their favourite artist and fans.

Even the installation is contextual, reflecting not only the application served for installation, but the HTML page used to reach to that consumer.

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Here’s a sneak from our Open Screen Project Funded apps from unknown vector. uvlayer is an application that allows a user to manage their favourite content in the cloud.  As a user you can store your photos, favourite videos on youtube and share your content across social media sites.  The mobile version takes the context of the hardware into account, you see mobile phones are about reactive browsing and messaging.  Increasingly however they are about taking photos and videos and using Nokia’s Platform Services this application is capable of uploading images and videos taken on your mobile phone.

Using Flash 10, AIR and Flash Lite 3.1 the team at uvlayer have successfully implemented an incredibly rich experience that runs across platforms, whilst really holding to the context of the application and the user.

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You can see some new videos from the Open Screen Project funded applications over at the new Youtube channel.

As always feel free to drop any questions in the comments box..

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