This is a comprehensive discussion I had in an interview recently, to talk about why I am focusing on the advantages of the mobile web over the per-device app strategy. In my past 2 years developing the When I’m Mobile strategy, I have discovered that working from the browser is a much more powerful and constructive approach to a mobile web strategy than depending on the app enviroment to get content out to the public.
The Web Browser Is The Most Powerful And Versatile App On The Smart Phone.
Today’s cellphones and smartphones are much more capable than most people are aware. The browser is fully capable of effectively completing tasks such as streaming and downloading music, streaming video, sending email, making phone calls, processing transactions, and more.
What is the importance of having a properly designed mobile website?
Your website is your image to the world. People need access to your information and content in an easily-usable and well-presented format. Organizations understand the importance of this and therefore put great effort into providing a usable website to their audience on the computer.
The problem arises when people are not at their computer, which is more and more of the time these days. Mobile devices are becoming more functional and are always on. What happens when someone tries to access your website on a phone? What will he or she see? Having a mobile web strategy addresses this issue, so that you can be confident that no matter where or how someone accesses your website they will see and experience what you want them to, thus extending your image and your relationship with your audience beyond the desktop and laptop.
For example: you send out an email or post a Twitter tweet with a link to your website. If someone picks up that email while at a computer, no problem; the link will pull up the default web browser and the site will present as expected. But what if the user reads the email on his iPhone or BlackBerry? What will come up when the link is clicked? A properly-detected and well-presented mobile version of your website is an essential component of your ability to interact with your audience whether a computer is present or not.
What are these advantages that the browser has over other apps?
Well, first of all, the web browser is itself an app. In fact, it is a powerful app with important capabilities not present in customized apps from the App Store.
Second, there are several differences from the app strategy that the browser environment provides. A few are presented here, but there are many reasons to pursue the browser-based approach when developing a mobile web strategy.
a. The browser interacts cleanly with other functionalities of the phone, rather than shutting down and bouncing you out when you go to do something else on the phone.
b. A browser-based solution puts the organization’s content on any device with a web browser, rather than separate build-outs and strategies for each device type.
c. Mobile web pages are linkable; apps are not. You can link to a mobile-friendly website or page via email, SMS text, Twitter tweet, etc. and your content will be presented appropriately on the device. Apps are stand-alone processes which must be clicked via the desktop icon, reducing flexibility and passive interaction.
d. Rather than depending on the audience downloading an app and putting it somewhere on the phone where it’s easily accessible, the browser-based strategy simply requires a web address. Instead of being app #74 on page 7 of someone’s iPhone, you can be an easily-accessible bookmark inside the Safari browser.
What are the capabilities of the cell phone?
Today’s cellphones and smartphones are much more capable than most people are aware. The browser is fully capable of effectively completing tasks such as streaming and downloading music, streaming video, sending email, making phone calls, processing transactions, and more. In short, almost everything your computer based browser can do, your mobile device can as well.
How can the browser-as-app make websites more effective?
The browser plays nicely with others; the apps do not.
If you are inside an app, a few menus down, reading content, listing to audio or watching a video, and you have to do something else on the phone (take a call, answer an email, use the Facebook app, etc), you almost always have to shut down the app. Your place is not saved (except for very few apps, such as the one from New York Times) and the user experience has been stopped.
Mobile websites can integrate video, audio, transaction processing, email, calls, the Maps app, iTunes, etc. into your experience, sending you to various parts of the phone to do what you need to do. When you return to the browser you are right where you left off. The user experience, rather than being interrupted or shut down, is fluid and continuous. For instance, look at the mobile website we built for the internet radio station Radio Paradise (www.radioparadise.com). You can stream the music on the background player while continuing to use the browser on Palm, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile; and while doing other tasks outside the browser on the iPhone. You wouldn’t be able to do that with an app.
You also can leverage the fact that your content on the main computer website is reusable across mobile platforms. When I’m Mobile works with you to present the content appropriately for the devices without having to duplicate content in most cases. We also provide the ability to insert, update and delete selected content on the website directly from most devices, so you can keep content on all versions of your site (main and mobile) current without having to be at a computer or contact anyone else to do so. A band member or manager can add tour dates to the schedule while at a venue; a chef can add tonight’s special to the menu while at the farmer’s market; a real-estate agent can update a listing while at the property in question; and all versions of the site reflect the changes immediately.
Why is the Apple App Store proving to be such a problem for developers?
Apple and AT&T are their own businesses with their own agendas. In many cases, this presents a conflict of interest with other companies (such as the current dispute between Apple and Google over the Google Voice app). The app approval process is often lengthy, cumbersome and expensive, and there is no guarantee that your app will get approval at the end of this process. Apple can reject apps based on their determination of content suitability (such as the Comedy Central’s South Park app, which was rejected for indecent content) or conflicts with their own business objectives.
Working with a mobile web developer eliminates all of those issues. There is no approval process and you are in complete control of the content you wish to provide to your audience.
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