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Mobile Web is Just Web

Web Development - September 13th, 2011

The current buzz around town (in Stockholm at least) is Mobile Web, it’s an exciting field and I’m very happy that more can see the opportunities in creating slick, polished mobile web sites as a complement or alternative to their native mobile apps. However, it seems as if everyone wants to jump on the train and create mobile web sites and mobile web apps using magic techniques such as HTML5 and jQuery Mobile. The truth is that these standards and frameworks are just tools, they are quite powerful but nothing more than the final polish of a mobile web solution. The foundation of a mobile website is much more basic than that, but let us start by finding out the characteristics of a good web solution

  • Focus on purpose and content
  • Clear and logic page and content structure
  • Linkable pages using pretty and unique URL’s
  • User experience adapted to the users screen resolution and browser capabilities
  • Clean, semantic and SEO-optimized HTML
  • Separated logic and styling (CSS and JavaScript)
  • Optimized page loading times through minimized file-sizes, compression and the number of http-requests

And then let’s find the defining characteristics of a good mobile web solution

  • Focus on purpose and content
  • Clear and logic page and content structure
  • Linkable pages using pretty and unique URL’s
  • User experience adapted to the users screen resolution and browser capabilities
  • Clean, semantic and SEO-optimized HTML
  • Separated logic and styling (CSS and JavaScript)
  • Optimized page loading times through minimized file-sizes, compression and the number of http-requests

The characteristics are identical, I’ve marked two that really provides the base for a mobile web solution. The only difference between “desktop” web and mobile web is in the implementation and that’s no different from making a website compatible with Internet Explorer on netbooks versus Safari on the 27″ iMac. It’s still just about creating a good user experience across all supported platforms and using the possibilities of the target platform.

A developer who wants to create a mobile web site by adding stuff hasn’t grasped the most basic concepts of web, that it’s always about adjusting and adapting and not about adding stuff. The most obvious exampel right now is jQuery Mobile, it’s a fantastic framework for creating an app-like UI-experience but it still needs a solid web-based foundation to stand on. Mobile web is just web, anyone who says different just doesn’t have their basic web development skills figured out.

Do you want to read more posts like this? I now blog about Web Development at cleanwebdevelopment.com.

Designing an iPad Optimized Website

Web Development - September 5th, 2011

I’ve previously written about some of the technical possibilities we have to tailor a website to an iPad (part one and part two), this time I’m going to give some directions on how to design page layout and interactions for iPads and other tablets based on my experience surfing the web, using apps and reading PDF magazines for the last year. I’m using my iPad at least 1.5 hours every day (my commute is around 45 mins using public transportation) so I’ve racked up a number of hours and have had the time to reflect on my usage patterns and the design and interaction choices I believe work and which can use some improvement.

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Mobile Web Versus Apps

Web Development - April 20th, 2011

Most vocal mobile development gurus I’ve heard claim that apps are faster and are the preferred choice for direct interaction on mobile devices over mobile web sites. In this logic, mobile web is the choice for indirect use, as a landing platform when someone clicks a link using a mobile device in twitter, facebook etc. However, the app market is getting crowded and I’m of a different view and belive that apps have a vastly more narrow use. Think about it, which is faster and requires the least amount of effort for the user:

  • Open the app store
  • Find the wanted app
  • Click install (or “Free” and then “Install”)
  • Click “Accept terms” (or enter the store password)
  • Waiting for the app to download and install
  • Find it somewhere on the device
  • Find the item to purchase or wanted information

or

  • Open the mobile browser (or tap a link on the homescreen, then jump to the last step below)
  • Enter the URL (or use a bookmark)
  • Find the item to purchase or the wanted information

Mobile apps can only be seen as direct communication when the user already have an established relationship with the company or service and have the app installed and regularly use it. For new relationships it’s a very time-consuming and energy-wasting detour. A problem also arises if the app is not up to par with the effort level of downloading it and figuring it out, more than 26% of iOS apps are only used once and then deleted (if they don’t just lie around on the device without ever being opened again). In this case a mobile website is much more appropriate, we don’t want to force our customers into downloading, installing something and then taking up screen real estate for a single interaction and for this the web is the appropriate medium.

I’m not saying that there’s no case where apps aren’t preferred over web, there are many of those (in-app purchases, advanced functionality, games etc). What I’m saying is that apps are only appropriate if they provide something more that isn’t available in a web app and the user already have a relation to the provider so they trust that the app and the content is worth the trouble.

Do you want to read more posts like this? I now blog about Web Development at cleanwebdevelopment.com.