The Mobile Choices You Have To Make

By Rajiv Jain (CEO, ThinkSys)

“The future of mobile is the future of online. It is how people access online content now.” – David Murphy, Founder and Editor of Mobile Marketing Daily

Earlier this year a major shift in the balance of power took place – almost unnoticed. Statista reports that now 52.7 of all internet access is now from the mobile. They further say that by 2017 over 63% of all mobile users worldwide would be accessing the internet from their mobiles. It seems clear that for those businesses that are web based the battleground is shifting from the large screen to the small screen, from the desktop to the phone or the tablet. Many have foreseen this and put in place robust mobile strategies and the rest are probably thinking it’s time to do so. In either case, though, there are some difficult choices to be made along the way. Let me take this chance to try to bring some order to the big decisions you will have to take initially.

Q1. Mobile App or Mobile enabled site?

Do you need to build an app and get it added to the App store of your choice or is it enough to have a site that renders well on the mobile? In Google’s dispensation of the day, a mobile friendly site is anyway mandatory to avoid site ranking penalties. That apart if your site is more likely to be used for information dissemination than for active transactions or actions then a mobile friendly website is likely the way to go. Among the other considerations is how frequently is an individual user likely to have to access the site – if the frequency is generally likely to be high, say public transport route and schedule info of social networking, then an app that is downloaded and installed on the phone may work better.

Q2. If you choose a site then what next?

What’s the design approach to pick? There are 3 that are the most common now Responsive, Adaptive and Blended Web Design. Without getting too much into gory details here are the broad differences:

  1. Responsive is a client-side approach. That’s to say the technology “resides” on the device on which the site is consumed so the experience is very seamless as far as the size and resolution capabilities of the device go. The downside is that traditionally this is tougher, more effort & skill intensive and takes longer to pull off well.
  2. The Adaptive approach, on the other hand, focuses the technology on the server side and adapts to whatever device the “connection” comes from by serving them the version of the content most appropriate to them. While this is usually easier to get off the ground the ongoing coordination and maintenance are a far greater coordination and execution challenge.
  3. A convenient, recent, middle ground has been arrived at with the Blended approach. This has been called Responsive with Service Side components – so the site being served may be the same, but there may be elements like the headers that may be specific to the device. The approach is still settling in but seems promising.

Q3. If App then Native Or Mobile web?

Essentially the thinking was that at one time if you wanted to reach out to as large a cross section of users as possible across devices, operating systems and so on you had to follow the Mobile Web approach utilising the powers of languages like HTML5.

The native approach tied itself much more closely to the operating system (& hence the device family) – if you wanted to target customers who were likely to be iPhone and iPad fans and wanted to use the capabilities of those devices much more fully then you picked iOS as your operating system of choice. The app would be built in accordance with the App Store specs and that was your little (or big) universe. If you thought your customer base was in the wider Samsung, LG, Motorola universe then you picked Android as your platform and that then decided all further choices.

Hybrid platforms like PhoneGap have been around for a while and these seem to be gaining ground. This an argument where the contours are changing even as we speak – maybe in a few months we will talk only about a Hybrid approach driven by people like ReactJS.

The prediction is that by 2018 half of the world’s mobile users will have smartphones. If your business has to be ready for that day you have some choices to make now. You will likely have to start with the answers to these questions.

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