Digital Strategy and Business,Marketing and Communications,Usability,Information Architecture,Web Culture and Trends,Content Management,Technology,Process and Methodology
Before launching headlong into the process of creating mobile
phone applications and/or mobile websites, it’s important to pause a moment to
consider the development of a medium to long term vision of how you will
communicate with your customers in the mobile space.
It’s easy to jump on the mobile bandwagon, to “spit out”
an iPhone app that you think your customers can download to do something useful
or cool. But is that what they really want? Is that what they need? Are your
customers really tapping away just on iPhones, or are they doing something
else? And what happens next?
We discussed one viewpoint on this topic in a recent DDSN
blog post – Should I Build a Mobile
The allure of quick wins is powerful. Furthermore the
quick wins attached to taking just a few of your most popular services and
dropping them onto a neat mobile-friendly screen can be substantial indeed. But
what impact will that have on your ability to deal with your customers smoothly
and cost effectively on an on-going basis?
The answer to that question is important, but
deliberations about potential problems don’t have to be complicated, and
there’s no need to be shy about getting into the mobile space with a quick win
strategy. Consideration of a few key points is probably enough:
- Your technology and design/deployment costs will
rise – although perhaps only a little. As a minimum, you do need to create and
maintain additional user interfaces for access to your services.
- Mobile audiences have high expectations in a
number of areas – usability, performance, availability of service. Make sure
your design and review process is robust.
- Cross platform compatibility of mobile applications
is an issue not to be taken lightly (although Australian audiences are more
high tech than in other parts of the world, and have newer smartphones that
- Should you develop native mobile device apps
(e.g. that are available in the various app stores), mobile web apps, or both?
There are a few sub-points to this question, such as:
your audience permanently connected to the web? What quality is their
connection? Are mobile device hardware features such as GPS, camera, or local
data storage a benefit or required to operate your application?
will be technical inputs to and constraints upon your project. E.g. the speed
of access required, the availability of data for your app (whether it’s
permanently online or not), the complexity of the required user interface.
will be separate marketing and communications inputs to and constraints upon
your project. E.g. do you want/need to be visible in the app stores (as opposed
to just on the mobile web)? Can you market a downloadable app differently or
better to a mobile web presence? Will the installation of a native app on your
customers’ devices increase brand loyalty?
various reasons, mobile web apps are cheaper to create and easier to deploy and maintain,
especially if your application accesses online data or has a more intricate
- If you are developing native mobile apps, an
iPhone app is no longer enough. The Android platform is rapidly gaining market
share. It will overtake Apple iOS in the near future. Other platforms
including Blackberry, HP Web OS, Symbian, and Windows Phone also cannot be ignored.
Even the iPad generally requires separate attention to the iPhone.
- If you are developing native mobile apps, cross
platform development and maintenance costs can multiply very quickly unless you’re careful about how your technology is
developed. For information-based and web-like apps there are development
methodologies that may allow a single stream of development to be deployed to
multiple devices aswell as your mobile web presence. Your developer should be
intimately aware of the issues in this area.
- What do your customers actually want on their
mobile screens? Can they get it from your existing website and is that enough?
Basic usability principles tell us that small mobile device screens necessarily require
different design consideration with regards to your application’s or service’s
user interface, but where cost is an issue, the balance of issues behind this
question makes the question worth asking.