The Importance of Mobile Screen Shots

Like other agencies, we have a tendency — when preparing screen shots for our presentations — to take them on our static web PCs. Given the explosion in the mobile web, this feels a bit last-decade. Worse, it promotes an inaccurate story about what’s rapidly becoming the most common user experience. This may be particularly true of social traffic. A year ago around 10% of the traffic we generated from social came from mobile handsets. Today it’s often closer to 30%.

I try to include a few mobile screen shots in my presentations — if only to highlight what is becoming an increasingly depressing truth.

Chanel Mobile

If I were being really careful though, I’d make sure that I used mobile screen shots even when I wasn’t making a point about mobile. Yes, it might add a minute to my workflow. But it might also be the kind of positive discrimination that helps change attitudes (not least my own: I still have to make a conscious effort to think about the mobile experience.)

PlaceIt

Now, take a look at the following screen shot:

PlaceIt by Breezi

By placing the experience in context it tells a more compelling story (I believe) about the user experience. It’s more relatable, familiar. I can comprehend it better in terms of my own previous frustrations.

The best thing? It’s easy enough for us all to do… I used a free web service: PlaceIt (from site design & hosting service, Breezi) where you can choose your mobile device (iPad, iPhones 4 & 5, a variety of Android handsets) and a series of near-realistic environments. All you need do is upload a screen shot taken on your phone, and it will be automagically adjusted and placed in situ (/ht Jeff Taylor from the Social Marketers Facebook Group for this great link.)

Do bear in mind that screen dimensions are often peculiar to the handset; so a screen shot taken on an iPhone 4 won’t look good on an iPhone 5 for example.

This is the best thing I’ve seen all month; and I share it with the massive recommendation that you try it out, and consider using it in future presentations.

Related Notes

I’ve also made great use in the past of Fabien Kreiser’s Screentaker — an OS X app aimed at the native app developer. In theory at least, one should be able to create one’s own versions of PlaceIt. And it’s great for telling user-journey stories.

Another useful service (/ht my colleague Laura Cogo) is Google’s Ready To Get Mobile.

And now that Evernote’s Skitch screen capture and annotation tool works on both Android and iOS, it’s becoming an ever more essential app for me.

Are there any others? Recommendations for good, stable mobile emulators that work on OS X and Windows would be particularly gratefully received.

Edit: By coincidence, just after posting this I was listening to the latest Mac Power Users Podcast, where Serenity Caldwell recommended Reflector — an iOS-only screen mirroring app (for both Windows & OS X) that lets users mirror their iOS device’s screen on their laptop or desktop. You can take screen shots (I’m using the CMD-SHIFT-4 + Space bar key combo to grab the whole window) or record a screencast from your handset or tablet. Feels like something that will become a big part of my workflow.

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