In our work helping our customers go mobile with FileMaker Go, we have started to develop some ideas about what it means to be mobile. I am sure these are not new ideas to many who have been developing mobile apps from the beginning, but they were new to us. I thought I would share one of the the key concepts that became obvious to us as we transitioned from desktop thinking to mobile thinking.

“Mobile” is about time and place.  Its about where you are, what you’re doing, and what’s going on around you. As long-time FileMaker Pro desktop developers, this may be tough to understand. But it’s the key to developing FileMaker Go applications.  That’s why applications that allow you to interact with your time and place are so compelling.  That maybe as simple as letting you look up a fact from Wikipedia in the middle of a conversation with your friends over dinner in a restaurant.  Or it may be a field service tech taking a picture of some damage and annotating the photo.  In both cases, the user used the mobile app to interact with or enhance what was going on around them.

Our recently released product, GoDraw, is aimed directly at this idea.  The ability to draw on a photo you just took, and store it in your application, “enhances” the interaction between your application and the time and place in which it is being used. Another one of our products, GoZync helps your app stay relevant even when the internet is down, by helping you go local.

But this concept is much more general than just GoDraw or GoZync.  It can help guide you as you design your FileMaker Go applications.  If you remember that it is about time and place, then you will remember to look for ways to tie your app to what’s going on around your users.  You will ask yourself what do your users need at that moment and where they are?  You may already give them an address; how about adding a map?  Maps are all about location.  You may want to add photos so you’re users can record the look of wherever they are. A picture is worth a thousand words.  An annotated picture is worth even more than that.

Just as importantly, you will remember not to impede the interaction of your app with time and place by designing it in such a way that it is too slow.  Your app can’t positively enhance  the present moment if it takes three minutes to load, or if it takes too long to get to the needed screen.  By the time your user gets what they need from your app, time will have moved on.  The moment will be lost and your app will no longer be relevant. Or worse, your users will be frustrated because they had to stop what they were doing to wait for your app to come up.

Remembering the importance of “time” and “place” will help guide you along the path to a successful FileMaker Go application.

4 responses to “Time and Place”

  1. This also ties in to the idea of “checking out” records that we end up adding to so many mobile solutions: only give me the records I need now, for this location.

  2. I agree but I would take this a little further – location is a geographical sub-set of context – where I am – whether geographically or intellectually.

    The vaste scope and general usefulness of Google Earth shows how powerful location is geographically but remember that for many professionals their context is not so much geographical as intellectual – what they are working on now and what is relevant to that work – within which location is an important element.

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