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11.2: Designing mobile applications for multiple form factors

Tom Hume, Johanna Hunt, Devi Lozdan, Bryan Rieger


Trutap is a social networking service for more than 350 different models of mobile device, which was built for a UK startup between 2007 and 2009. It aggregates online blogging, instant messaging, and social services like Facebook, allowing its users to interact with these even when away from the PC (see Figures 11.12 and 11.13).

Multiple serviced, aggregated

Carousel for inter-service navigation, contextual options menus
Figure 11.12 Trutap: version 2.0 design concepts

Figure 11.13 Trutap: version 2.0 design screenshots, inbox

The design of the Trutap application, which took place over two major releases, posed signifi cant challenges in terms of how to integrate disparate sources of data onto small-screen devices, and produce a design which would scale between form factors, i.e. different physical cell phone designs. The product was designed with a clear goal: teenagers and young adults were spending half of their social lives online, but had to leave that half behind when they walked away from the PC. Trutap would help them keep connected, even when they were away from the PC.

Two versions of the product were launched: Trutap 1.0 offered its own mechanisms for managing people's contacts and communicating with them, and tied into a range of existing instant messaging networks (Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and the like). Launched in 2008, this version saw far greater take-up in India and Indonesia than with its original target audience of UK students.

This take-up, combined with the successful launch of the iPhone in July 2008 and the increasing prominence of Facebook as the dominant site for personal social networking, led to a change in emphasis for the 2.0 release of Trutap. Launched a year after 1.0, and technically an evolution rather than a reworking, 2.0 emphasized the aggregation of existing online services, tying into Facebook, weblogging software, and photo management, and extending the number of instant messaging services covered. Publicly, the product was presented as a means for aspirational middle classes in the developing world to experience many of the same benefi ts that the iPhone promised, but on their conventional mobile devices.

This case study, by Tom Hume, Johanna Hunt, Bryan Rieger, and Devi Lozdan from Future Platforms Ltd, explores the impact that different form factors had on the design of Trutap.

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