It’s no secret that you can access more Internet through mobile devices – such as a smartphone or a tablet – rather than traditional desktops or laptops. Essentially, among users, the convenience outweighs performance.
This shift in consumer behavior has a profound impact on the design of Web sites. Any strategy of awareness or communication on the Web must consider mobile devices from the start, not after the fact.
There are a variety of devices designed for mobile websites, ranging from simple websites “compatible with mobile devices” to specialized “mobile applications”. In the middle are those who are designated as “suitable for mobile devices”, “Adaptive Web Sites”, “optimized for mobile” and even “mobile only”.
More than just native apps
Most people associate the so-called native mobile applications Web applications, such as those downloaded from the iTunes App Store, which can be found in the mobile device of a user. However, technology is on track to transform the mobile landscape. With the advent of HTML5, it is now possible to offer users the features of an application, without requiring them to submit to the installation process.
The operation of these accessible mobile Web applications on the Internet is almost identical to that of native apps. Over the years, an increasing number of applications will be accessible directly via the web. In addition, as that will continue the development of HTML5, consumers benefit probably fewer restrictions, as users have access to the same content, regardless of the phone manufacturer and whatever versions they want (or not) download.
Weaknesses of native mobile applications
The desire to create HTML Web pages specifically for small touch screen interfaces stems from a longstanding gap associated with native mobile applications: they must be programmed so that they explicitly run on a particular operating system (such as Apple iOS, Android or BlackBerry). This customization is problematic for developers, as they must create separate applications for each smartphone supported. For example, the Android device users can use Apple’s version. Content creators must either restrict the scope or provide support for multiple versions simultaneously, which can be complex and costly. For users, the native mobile applications can also present difficulties: customers must find the desired application, download, which can affect the data plan customers, install and sometimes even perform updates periodic updates.
HTML5 is proving an attractive solution to this lack of a common platform among mobile devices. In fact, HTML5 is simply a natural extension of the markup language that is already used to encode all Web pages. This new version allows better compatibility and can even access many of the functions of smart phones, such as the Global System (GPS) positioning and compass. It should be noted that these mobile Web applications that are more “tailored to mobile devices’ applications are designed to be used almost exclusively on mobile devices. In fact, most mobile Web applications will not display correctly on a desktop or equipped with Internet Explorer or Firefox laptop. Only suitable for HTML5 browsers (those equipped with WebKit), such as Google Chrome and Safari can display the content properly on a desktop computer. It may be, however, that navigation is still less fluid with a mouse with a touch screen.
Although both types of platforms – mobile Web applications and native mobile applications – A feature largely similar, there are some important differences between the two. For example, since the native mobile applications are tailored to be used on a particular mobile phone, they are faster and better exploit all the features of smart phones, such as the compass, motion detectors and the camera. Ultimately, native mobile applications offer better performance and a more refined design. They are specifically designed to fit the exact dimensions of the screen and the resolution of the latter.
In addition, because mobile Web applications are made on the Internet to be displayed in the web browser of the phone like any other Web page, WI-Fi or 3G reliability they need. This requirement may be particularly problematic for foreign visitors to pay roaming charges. Although, to be fair, native mobile applications can also consume a lot of bandwidth because it will need to download to start.
However, mobile web applications have their advantages. For example, it is possible to design them so that they provide a certain functionality even when offline. Similarly, mobile Web applications involve a lower development costs and can reach a broader market faster, since they do not have to be approved by the manufacturer of the device. Mobile Web applications are less expensive to maintain, especially when the organization may use some internal resources responsible for information technology, which is already engaged in the production of the website of the institution.
The ability to follow up with web analytics is also one of the main advantages of mobile Web applications. Also, since these applications are hosted on the Web, they can be indexed by search engines like Google, making them easier to find by users. In addition, these applications can be added to favorites on the phone’s home screen (just like any other website), to launch the same way as native mobile applications, simply by pressing an icon.
Here is a summary of the various strengths and weaknesses of mobile Web applications:
- They can offer a similar experience like native mobile applications.
- They can be used on many platforms (adaptable user interface).
- They are controlled and maintained internally.
- They are independent of the operating system and application store.
- They offer web analytics capabilities.
- They do not require any installation (very convenient).
- Their content can be found using search engines.
- They can not (yet) use the full capabilities of the devices.
- Although they do not apply to a particular device, the performance varies from one platform to another.
- They usually require a 3G or Wi-Fi
- HTML5 is still under development (some features are added along the way).
For many institutions, it makes sense to start developing mobile web applications in conjunction with, or instead of, native mobile applications. By offering both options, organizations can optimize their reach. In such cases, visitors can access the interface through the Web or otherwise download the native app on their device, according to their own preferences.
Further applications, they’re adaptive web sites
Mobile devices also have different sizes, ranging from small, smart phones to large tablets. Obviously, tablets offer the best experience from mobile devices. They are faster, have more features and have a large screen high definition. However, when designing a mobile Web application, you can not adopt a standard resolution as the screen size changes. The solution is to use the design of adaptive Web sites that makes accessible to any type of smart phone or tablet website.
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