Mobile Website Development
Are you reading this blog on your mobile device? Just a few years ago that would seem like an absurd question but as we all know we are now in the age of mobile. A recent report published by RBC analyst Mike Abramsky estimated that there will be more smartphones sold than PCs in 2012 (reference http://www.pcworld.com/article/171380/).
With the growth of mobile internet usage comes lot of jargon that can be tough to decipher for marketers who are not programmers. Below is a breakdown of what is commonly referred to as mobile websites.
Mobile Friendly Websites
Having a mobile friendly website is the most basic way that you can make your business accessible to users with smartphones. Every smart phone has a browser, just like your computer, the biggest difference is that mobile browsers don’t all allow the use of all of the technology that your computers browser allows. Flash for example won’t render on many popular handsets including the iPhone. If your website currently uses these technologies a user who comes to your site on a mobile device be limited in what they can see. If your site uses Flash for navigation, which was common practice not that long ago, your site could even be unusable from a mobile device all together.
Good web development best practices and eliminating the use of Flash create sites that will be useable from a mobile device although your site may still leave a lot to be desired when it comes to the user experience.
Mobile Sites aka Web Apps
A step up from mobile friendly sites are mobile websites also known as web apps. Rather than just being a small site on a small screen these web apps focus on tailoring the experience to users who have different needs. From rethinking the information architecture pairing down the site content web apps should be designed from the ground up with the mobile user in mind.
From a technical stand point most web apps and have a user interface that has been optimized for finger naviation. Such optimization includes the use of bigger buttons, fewer graphics to decrease load times, and minimized content to make navigating the site fast.
Many times these sites are hosted on a domain name such as m.yourdomain.com, yourdomain.com/mobile or yourdomain.mobi and are set to detect the device that is accessing the site and to automatically send smartphones to the mobile version of the site with a link to view the full site if desired.
Development of a mobile website can be intensive at times but will pay dividends in usability. Below are a couple of good examples of web apps.
Native Applications aka Apps
If you are serious about providing the best user experience possible then you may elect to have an app developed. Apps can take full advantage of the hardware and operating system (OS) of the handset and can have features that web apps can’t such as detecting vibration, using the GPS, and sending push notifications.. Consequently a different app must be created for each operating system that you want the app to work on. Apps can also be a source of revenue as they can be sold through and app store or marketplace
The primary players in the mobile operating system game are Apple (iOS), Google (Android), Blackberry (Blackberry OS) and Microsoft (Windows Phone 7). In addition to the complexity and cost of initially building an app, some manufacturers have an approval process for apps that go into their app stores and apps need to be updated with each new OS version release.
Below are some quick questions that will help you identify what you are looking next time you are browsing the web from your phone.
Does it look like a normal website only smaller? Yes=Mobile Friendly Site
Does it look like an app but I didn’t have to download anything ? Yes = Web App
Did I download something an app store or marketplace? Yes = App