Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mobile is moving, are you ready?

An excellent slideshow from Business Insider about the future of mobile shows the growth of the mobile space.  Some key points are:

  • 30% of the world is online.
  • That 30% represents over 80% of the worlds money.
  • Tablets and smart phones have already saturated the American market.
  • Smart phone use is growing fast in other countries like China.
  • People do everything on a smart phone that they do on a PC + take pictures and play games.
  • We live in a multi-screen world (smart phone, mini-tablet, tablet, laptop, desktop monitor, tv)
So, how do you deal with website visitors who are on their smart phones... and all their other devices?

Let's look at your options:
  • Native Apps - Native apps sound like a great idea.  They fit perfectly on the device and are easy to use.  The problem is that you have to get them approved and convince people to download them.  If you need to cater to a large audience, you have to make a different app for Apple, Android, and now Windows, not to mention the myriad of devices and display sizes you'll need to accommodate.  In the end, native apps work best for a specific, well defined group to perform advanced tasks.
  • Device Specific Sites - The good ol' mobile site, but now you have to decide if you need a "tablet site", or "tv site."  These specific sites are great because they let you customize the experience in a way that is almost native w/o having to worry about approvals and downloads, but they are still loads of work to maintain.  Every landing page now needs 2, 3, 4 versions with device specific optimization.  Every bug fix has to be vetted on multiple devices, etc. 
  • Responsive Design - Responsive design is the new kid on the block.  While not "new" many people are hearing about this idea for the first time.  With responsive design, the layout of your site changes depending on the screen/window size but the content stays the same.  You can re-size pictures and videos, convert from a 3 column layout to 1 column, and even make the navigation easier to use with your finger, all on the fly.  This is definitely the most attractive option if you need your site to feel "native" on screens of different sizes, and don't want to maintain multiple sites.  Although, it still doesn't solve the issue of having to test at multiple screen sizes.
  • Do Nothing - Do almost nothing is my personal choice.  Despite the angry comments I'm sure I'll get, and being mindful that there are many cases where other options are better, I don't think we should cater to devices.  Devices should cater to us, and for the most part, they do.  Almost all smart phones and tablets have scaling and zoom features.  If you optimize your main site to be mindful of bandwidth and stubby fingers your site will work well on all devices.  Simplify navigation and buttons to make it easier to click on your target.  Consider using styles and patterns vs images to reduce page size and download times.  One site makes it easier to keep up with your online presence and it's no surprise that these same changes also tend to increase conversion rates.
The web is not just for computers anymore.  Whether you optimize for all devices or create native apps, the important thing to remember is that more of your customers are using multiple devices everyday.  

How well does your site work on an iPhone, Galaxy, Nexus, Kindle, Xbox?