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Mobile Web Technology

Recently I gave a short talk on mobile web technologies at a Spotlight Supper for the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce. Below is a slightly extended version of it with links to the sources and statistics I quoted.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like further information.

I was given three questions to answer. the questions were:

  1. Why should people invest in a mobile specific design for their website? (as opposed to just thinking that a site that renders on a mobile, is enough)
  2. What benefits does a mobile website bring to a business?
  3. What are the risks for business that choose to ignore the proliferation of mobile technologies?

Content of Talk

1. Why should people invest in a mobile specific design for their website? (as opposed to just thinking that a site that renders on a mobile, is enough)

A mobile specific design is a version of a website that has been made to be viewed on a small screen. Viewing a website designed for the desktop on a mobile device is a bit like looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope. In fact, expecting your desktop website to work on your clients mobile device is a bit like using a shovel to put sugar into your tea. It’ll work, but using a teaspoon would be a lot easier!

Have you tried to use a website designed for the desktop on a Smartphone? Because they’ve been designed for a much larger screen, most of the site will be very hard to read. To see the content clearly you need to ‘pinch and zoom’ and navigate your way around the site as if it was under a magnifying glass.

Apart from this getting tedious quickly, it hogs the phones resources, slowing it down, as it keeps sending http requests to the server. This takes chunks out of your monthly data allowance and drains the battery more quickly. If the website is image heavy it slows things down even more and gobbles up more data. In some cases it may even lock-up the browser.

Your Website

I guess most people here have company websites. How many of you have tried to use you’re website with a Smartphone? Assuming you don’t already have a mobile friendly website, how was it? I bet it could be a whole lot better.

If you haven’t checked your site, you really need to give a try. This way you can see why your site visitors may not be staying on your website for long.

If you have any Flash on your site, you want to avoid serving this to a mobile user. iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches don’t support Flash, so it’s possible your site will break completely if it relies on Flash too much. On devices that do support Flash, the rendering of Flash is very resource intensive and can be quite buggy. In fact, even Adobe are abandoning mobile Flash, so it’s days are numbered.

Lets quote a few statistics:

2. What benefits does a mobile website bring to a business?

It helps you sell more stuff. You can focus the important elements of your content and provide a concise and relevant user experience.

All you have to do is look around when your out anywhere. Chances are you’ll see someone fingering the screen of their Smartphone. If you look at the usage statistics for your website you’ll probably see a huge growth in the number of users that visit it with mobile devices. (If you don’t have access to your websites statistics, you should be having a stern word with your web provider).

Having a mobile website isn’t just a matter of replicating your desktop website into a mobile format. Because of the limited screen size, it’s not possible to replicate everything you may have on your website. Even if it was it would make it hard for a user to navigate through all the superfluous content. For mobile users the content needs to be sharp and to the point.

Web Statistics

Here’s some examples from three of our customers websites. These are increases in mobile traffic that have occurred over the last 12 months.:

  • Education provider: 243% increase
  • Legal company: 328% increase
  • Energy company: 565% increase

Quick Case Study

Energy Company

Statistics show that the important information that is to the the energy companies customers is:

  • The share price
  • Investors news
  • Project maps

This provides a really good starting point and has dictated what information needs to be presented to mobile users directly. Because the success of the company revolves around their share price and keeping investors happy, this is the focus for the mobile interface. They could invest in an App for this information, but this would add complexity and expense to the project. All this information can be provided far more easily in the mobile web browser.

How Can It Benefit You?

Understand where your visitors are currently going on your website. Prioritise the top content they are after and deliver it to them directly in their mobile browser.

This is all very well, but why should you get get a mobile friendly website? Well, have your competitors got one? If they have and you don’t, the chances are that mobile users will be buying from them instead of you. If your competitors don’t have one, well here’s an opportunity to give yourself a competitive advantage.

3. What are the risks for business that choose to ignore the proliferation of mobile technologies?

Quite simply, they’ll get left behind.

Looking at the statistics I quoted earlier it’s easy to see companies that choose to ignore the demand will lose business. It will cost them money. Not having a mobile friendly website will be like telling mobile users you don’t want their business.

I can’t think of any other technology that is growing as quickly as mobile web. The smartphones are getting smarter and tablet devices (such as the iPad) have opened up new levels of portability for web users.

The carriers networks are getting faster, cheaper and more reliable. The software is becoming more capable and so are mobile web browsers. When you add geo-location information, suddenly a mobile device becomes far more capable than an ordinary laptop or desktop computer.

Augmented Reality is a new mobile technology that uses all of these things and more. To quote Wikipedia:

“Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.”

To conclude, mobile technologies affect just about everyone. If you have a business and your website is important to you (if it isn’t, why do you have it?) then you can’t afford to ignore the proliferation of mobile technologies.

So, what are you waiting for?

Sources:


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