Desktop / Smartphone / Tablet

Soo!… If the single device user is dead, why are we ignoring this fact?

Once upon a time we lived in an age where most users of the web would do so from a single device. Time quickly forgot that age and with the advent of cheaper personal computing devices such as laptops and then devices such as smart phones and tablets, our devices became truly became personal. Not just in name but in their very nature. The more personal that devices could become, the more task specific our other devices would become. With the evolution of the personal computing landscape the questions that were raised about our computing quickly changed and as more and more companies thought to leverage how integrated these devices had become in our lives, it seems that what should have been a foundation of that had become less than an afterthought.

Google has been at the forefront of multi-device computing and at the same time, being the advertising company that they primarily are, also at the front of both leveraging the increased access to user-data while neglecting the user experience that such increased access affords. Google got it half-way right with Google Cloud Messaging. It would ease the burden on devices and utilise their server farms to process messages. However the only true winner here was the battery life and performance of the devices, not necessarily the end user as one a message was delivered to a device, it was handed off like a baton. What remains to be missing is the synchronisation of those notifications. Meaning that if a user has the same notification delivered to multiple devices, the action they took on a single device wouldn’t be mirrored on all other devices. This essentially means that if a user dismisses and takes actions on their phone throughout the day, when they return to their tablet, those same notifications would require action. Thus the more connected users become to their Android ecosystem, the greater the workload becomes.

Mozilla also failed to truly get it. Mozilla got bogged down in a battle of performance with Google’s Chrome and as such, the evolution of browsing fell by the wayside. While the needs of a modern browser grew and that presented opportunity to entrench users in the ecosystem. Mozilla chose to ignore the glaringly obvious choice to take browsing beyond the concept we have. With Firefox Sync, they stuck their feet in the water but never truly moved beyond that. There was a short-lived initiative for a Profile In The Cloud but it failed to gain any traction and as Panorama now renamed Tab Groups failed to gain users, it was swept under the carpet and allowed to whither until the point it’s set to be removed before the end of Q4 2016 in their development builds. The trick that was obviously missed here was to present users with the concept of connected browsing. Rewrite the connotations of modern browsing. A window becomes an active tab group and even when open on a single device, can be taken and opened on another device. The browser window as we had known it should’ve become our portal, our conduit. The browser window would truly become a window to our world. A user has a session open on their Android phone but wants to finish it on their desktop, you take that window and in place of the tabs on the smartphone is a visual representation of all the groups. But as stated, Mozilla merely stuck a toe in and instead, the best a user can do is send a tab to another device.

The question is a simple one. In an age where we’re more connected than ever and we have more devices than ever available to us, why aren’t we updating our concepts of usability to match the possibilities we have before us. If a user loses a device, why are the tabs lost? And if a user dismisses a notification, why aren’t they dismissed from all devices? Why are we holding ourselves back?


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