Understanding the Mobile Web
The Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation recently published an article by Weever Apps co-founder, Andrew Holden, called “Understanding the Mobile Web”. Find the article here or after the jump.
Everyone knows that mobile device usage is booming and that companies, individuals, artists – you name it – have to “go mobile” to effectively engage their customers and remain competitive. But how does that happen? What works?
First we have to know what people are using to access the mobile web. Despite the iPhone’s popularity, it only represents about a quarter of smart phone users in North America. Android is actually the market leader with over 50% ownership, leaving the rest to BlackBerry and others. And then there is the rapidly growing tablet market, which altogether provides a wide variety of devices for people to go mobile.
This diversity is resulting in the decline of traditional, platform-specific mobile app development (i.e. apps exclusively built for iPhone or Android).Taking over are apps and sites that launch directly from the universal mobile web browser. Not only does this address cross-platform issues, but it also reduces development costs and time-to-market. Platform-specific mobile apps still exist, due to their complex functionality. However, advancements in web development (HTML5) are pushing mobile web solutions to the same level of sophistication. Mobile web apps and sites are now very responsive to the device being used to access them. Notable features include GPS services, touch-sensitive designs, and interactive multimedia.
With these developments contributing to the ever-increasing influence of the mobile web, it is important to understand the user experience and how it differs from the web we know on desktops.
A smartphone’s handheld placement and touch screen reduces the user’s controls from the sophisticated keyboard and mouse combo to a few fingers. Mix in the small screen and the imprecision of a finger versus a cursor to discover that desktop web sites are often too complex for a mobile device. The experience on a mobile device is much more tactile. So naturally, the most responsive solutions today allow users to “feel” their way through the mobile web with effortless tapping and sliding motions.
Context is also vastly different if you compare, for example, standing on a crowded bus to sitting comfortably at a desk. Mobile users are pressed with time constraints, which increase their impulse and impatience. Impulse leads to faster decision-making (i.e. purchasing) and impatience causes mobile users to leave a website if their goal is not reached within 20-30 seconds. Because mobile users are subject to many distractions, mobile solutions need to be persistent in order to be effectively engaging. This is why tab bars and notifications exist – to always remind the user where they are in relation to everything else and what exactly they should be doing.
In sum, the mobile web experience becomes the most engaging when an app or site is highly intuitive, optimized for touch navigation, limited in steps to complete a task, and carefully persistent.
So if you ever wonder why you find certain mobile apps and sites more engaging than others, now you know!