The Mobile Internet and Its Impact on Your Business

A research report published in December 2009 by Morgan Stanley Research Team concluded that the current decade belongs to Mobile internet and argued that all businesses should “take a note of what Apple + consumers are doing and determine how to adapt to the mobile internet over the coming decade”.

In just 9 months since the report was published, the forecast has become a reality. Powered by 3G/4G technologies and ever increasing smart-phone capabilities, consumers have begun to adopt mobile internet as part of their daily lives. Millions of Apps both enterprises oriented and consumers oriented have been published, downloaded and first movers have built an advantage.

A key impact of the growing mobile internet trends is the demand from customers and users who want accessibility of information about a company and its products or services at any time, from any location and with complete ability to engage in any business transaction. And this is translating into demand for mobile friendly websites – customers and users want to access company information either via an App or via a pleasing browser based interface. If you website does not provide this experience, you may be missing out on the younger customers and loosing points with the more mature customers.

There was a time a few quarters ago when WAP based websites were the cutting edge for mobile website access. However, with the advent of HTML5 and smart-phone browsers, the trend has shifted in favour of the latter and rich mobile websites have become the expected experience.

Mobile website development has some unique challenges given the limitations of the form factor, screen, battery, capabilities etc. Pariksha Labs has been developing web-apps plus mobile combo solutions for customers in US, Europe and India and will be happy to provide you consulting, design and/or development services for your projects.

Here are some key learnings and experiences from our work with mobile websites so far:

Limitation 1: size of screen
Mobile is also known as the 4th screen (cinema, TV, computer are the first three screens). It is the most powerful screen but in a few cases the size of screen makes it difficult to see text and graphics dependent on the standard size of a desktop computer screen. The size of a screen is one critical issue but the newer Smart-phones are trying to overcome this issue. The notepad form factor (iPAD, Kindle etc) provide a much larger screen real estate but creates more complexity for the website.

Limitation 2: navigation
The small screen as a challenge is coupled with issues like navigation. Most mobile devices do not use a mouse like pointer, but rather simply an up and down function for scrolling, thereby limiting the flexibility in navigation. This challenge is best addressed by innovative UI design that focuses on pull-up menus; slider based controls, touch based inputs etc.

Limitation 3: multiple windows
Most of the mobile phones don’t allow opening more than one window at a time. However, browsers such as Opera Mini and oceanus apps for iPhone allow multiple windows access. The other challenge comes in the form of lack of Javascript, cookies, and client-side scripting. We have found that designing a screen grid and mapping the same to left/right and up/down navigation can help manage the multiple window requirements better.

Limitation 4: speed
A key challenge with mobile internet is speed of connectivity (at least with 2.5G technology). Moreover on mobile devices a single page which otherwise is viewed on a desktop is broken into segments for mobile access. These broken pages are treated as separate pages. This challenge as paired with the slow speed makes navigation between these pages even slower. Moreover, many pages, in their conversion to mobile format, are squeezed into an order different from how they would customarily be viewed on a desktop computer. To overcome these challenges, be prepared to design your mobile website differently.

Limitation 5: content types
Unfortunately, many mobile devices cannot access pages with a secured connection, Flash or other similar software, PDFs, or videos. This makes it difficult for all those sites which have these features to be accessed over mobile device. Since only certain content can be transferred, businesses fear it may mean development and maintenance of an alternate web site at a high expense. Depending on the business domain, you may have to deploy additional back-end technology to server different content types for mobile internet – video is a prime example with HTTP streaming preferred over flash media server streaming.

Limitation 6: development resources
One of the biggest challenges in building mobile websites is scarce mobile web development resources. The mobile website development and maintenance engineers are not in abundance. This makes development of any mobile website a tricky affair. There are a few first time developers who are struggling hard to develop a good mobile website. It is important to identify right mobile website and application development team to develop the mobile website.

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