Context is a slippery topic that evades attempts to define it too tightly. Some definitions cover just the immediate surroundings of an interaction. But in the interwoven space-time of the web, context is no longer just about the here and now. Instead, context refers to the physical, digital, and social structures that surround the point of use.
Great design is built around people, not devices or software. Applying responsive design or native app UX is a tool, not a solution. Instead, we should design software that solves a problem for a real person (not a power-user or one of our colleagues) given the devices available to them and the context of use they’re in.
A high information density display is no good to a parent trying to get their kids out the door. Documentation based on video tutorials is no good for someone riding a bus. A developer troubleshooting a service bottleneck needs to know more than the average response time.
As both designers of user experiences and developers of software, we need to get away from the desk and out amongst those we’re building for. It’s too easy to build for ourselves and our friends. We need to consider how others approach and use what we make. Armed with that context, we can design a solution for everyone, and not just those we share a bubble with.