This week, CityCircles (formerly Daily Phoenix) attended a lunch event at Arizona State University that allowed us to have one-on-one conversations with college seniors who were interested in our project. (The event is summarized here.)

This was a crucial event. ASU has a huge footprint in the Phoenix area because it has 69,000 students. They buzz around the Valley in cars, on bikes, on foot and yes, on light rail. This makes them a huge group for us as potential users and collaborators.

As we talked to them, we realized that an assumption we made early on — one that many other projects probably make as well — was not accurate. In the hype surrounding the race to 3G and 4G and touch-screen phones and do-it-all applications, only a fraction of the market uses these smartphones. The rest of us have, for lack of a better term, “dumphones.”

This means that designing a platform for smartphone users could lead one astray. Every student we spoke with had different versions of phones that used a native web browser. We initially considered this reality and were encouraged by our advisors to do so, but we didn’t realize how dead-on the advice was until we interacted with some of our users.

So there are two takeaways here: organize events that allow you to interact one-on-one with different groups of your core users; and gear your mobile development towards dumphones. You can always build that slick mobile app later.

For more on our ASU experience, check out our video:

CityCircles at ASU from Adam Klawonn on Vimeo.