Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

The Roles of Form and Function in Utilitarian Mobile Data Service Design

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

The Roles of Form and Function in Utilitarian Mobile Data Service Design

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Mobile data services (MDS), which can be defined as "an assortment of digital data services that can be accessed using a mobile device over a wide geographic area" [Hong and Tam 2006], have become pervasive in our lives. They are normally accessed via mobile applications or mobile websites [Ketkar, Shankar and Banwet 2012; Cortimiglia, Ghezzi, and Renga 2011; Nah et al. 2005]. BDS can be conceptualized in two ways, depending on the perspective taken [Choi et al. 2007]. In a narrow view, MDS specifically refer to data services accessed through a mobile communication network (e.g. GPRS, GSM, LTE). From a broader perspective, MDS "refer to the convergence of mobile communications and the Internet, and thus includes any access to the Internet through wireless connections" [Choi et al. 2007], which include Wi-Fi connections. MDS include a variety of digital data services, which can be divided into utilitarian ones (e.g. news, navigation, or mobile banking services) and hedonic ones (e.g. mobile games, or audio/video entertainment players) [Kim and Han 2011]. Our study follows the broader conceptualization, confining itself to utilitarian MDS accessed via smartphones, tablet devices, mobile applications, and mobile websites.

Over the course of time, MDS have developed substantially, starting from a low-end wireless application protocol (WAP) in 1997 to the recently developed and very flexible multiplatform and multidevice applications. The advent of mobile devices and the rapid growth of technological innovations, through which an increasing number of usage scenarios became possible, triggered the evolution of MDS [Cortimiglia et al. 2011]. After a slow start, the past five years have seen the massive adoption of mobile devices and mobile data services. Smartphone penetration in Europe was expected to reach nearly half of the population by the end of 2013, and tablet ownership in Western Europe was set to quadruple in the next five years [Husson and Reitsma 2013]. Simultaneously, the global penetration of mobile Internet users was expected to exceed PC-based Internet users by 2016 [Huynh and Wray 2012]. While MDS could at first only retrieve emails, they can now meet many private or business demands, and innovation is ongoing [Hong and Tam 2006]. MDS provide ubiquitous access to real-time information and B2C/B2B transactions from almost any place and from multiple devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, and hybrid devices) [Cortimiglia et al. 2011; Lee et al. 2009]. This paradigm shift towards high mobile use massively impacts many industries. Above all, the software industry has undergone substantial changes and has shown tremendous growth rates in terms of the development of mobile offerings, which industries such as IT, banking, and retail are widely adopting [Accenture 2013]. Along with the improved capabilities of MDS, customer demands are increasing. They expect anytime, anywhere access to services, and with any device, which should also be easy to use and appealing [Maedche et al. 2012].

Against this background, design is becoming increasingly important as well as a key to product success [Candi and Saemundsson 2011; Hertenstein et al. 2005]. Design can serve as a tactical and strategic tool by which firms can achieve competitive advantage by differentiating their offerings [Luchs and Swan 2011]. Companies increasingly face the challenge of delivering well-designed MDS. However, many companies are struggling to clearly define this multifaceted term [Lawson and Dorst 2009]. A reason for this problem is the ambiguity of the term design, which can be a verb or a noun and thus represent either a process, or an outcome perspective. Here, we take an outcome perspective, since we examine a specific software artifact: mobile data services.

While there is no commonly accepted definition [Luchs and Swan 2011], there is agreement that design can be divided into two fundamental components: form and function [Townsend, Montoya, and Calantone 2011; Ulrich and Eppinger 2012]. …

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