Many traditional software companies are reviewing options for taking their products to the mobile space, but how can you be certain you’re bringing the right features to the mobile audience?  The first and most critical question you need to answer is “What are my customers trying to achieve with this software on their smartphone or tablet?”

The first step in determining the functionality to take to a mobile device is understanding the different types of user behaviour for each device.

Desktop Software

Users are comfortable with long hours spent creating and editing documents on their desktop computers.

Each user has most likely set up their system exactly how they prefer, making interaction as comfortable for them as possible.


  • Creating & editing documents
  • Interacting with multiple systems


  • Keyboard & mouse driven
  • Large screens
  • Powerful CPU & video card
  • Lots of storage
  • Multiple windows


Apps on Tablets

Tablet devices are more powerful then ever, and with the BYOD trend, workers across many sectors are adopting them for daily tasks.

Users on tablets are prone to short attention spans and expect fewer steps to achieve their goals.


  • Reviewing documents
  • Light system interaction


  • Touch driven
  • Mid-size, high quality screens
  • Fast CPU & GPU
  • Challenges with power consumption
  • Single window


Apps on Smartphones

We all realise that the days of only using mobile phones for phone calls are gone. In some countries, web usage on smartphones has surpassed that on desktop PCs.

Users on smartphones expect to be able to perform small tasks quickly, and applications often have to be aware of each other (camera, social media).


  • Sending short messages
  • Completing small tasks


  • Touch & button driven
  • Small screens
  • CPU & GPU
  • Challenges with power consumption
  • Single window


Case Study: Evernote

When choosing the features from your desktop application that you wish to implement on tablets and smartphones, it might help to look at some other products that have successfully made that leap. For this example, I will use Evernote, a brilliant note-taking application that allows users to take notes on any device and have them automatically synchronise across all of their other devices.

Screenshot of Evernote on the Desktop

Evernote application running on a tablet

Evernote on the Tablet

Evernote running on an iPhone

Evernote on the Smartphone

The desktop version of Evernote is feature-rich.

Users are expected to create, edit & organise notes and notebooks


The iPad version has fewer features than the desktop version.

Users are expected to create and edit notes, but not organise.


Evernote on mobile phones is aimed towards basic use.

Panes have their own view with simple functionality



The best way to ensure that you are taking the correct set of features to your mobile version of your software is to run usage studies at the beginning of the development cycle and again late in the development cycle. Launching a product is expensive and first impressions are key, so make sure that you are providing the best product you can at initial launch.
To learn more, view my Going Native presentation on Slideshare