The End of Great Mobile

By DANIEL ANTION posted 04-17-2012 10:03


Remember the 90’s? Remember when the web was an awful user experience compared to just about the only thing the web ran on, i.e. a fully capable computer. Whether it was your desktop or your laptop, you pulled up those anemic, mostly static webpages next to relatively lively and actionable fat-client applications. The novelty of the web was pervasive, but the experience was lacking. Maybe that was part of what fueled the bubble and caused it to pop. Now I fear that we may be heading for a bubble of crap apps.

HTML 5, HTML5, HTML – FIVE!!! I hear the cry; it’s going to deliver us from the evil that is cross-platform development. It’s going to quiet the “but Apple doesn’t do Flash” whiners who can’t watch porn on their iPad. It’s going to help Android apps look OK on every Android form-factor instead of looking OK on just one and it’s going to help Microsoft cinch that number three spot by making a lot of iPhone apps look no better than Windows Phone apps. Yay, the great new common denominator is here. Pardon me if I don’t get up to join the ovation.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the benefit of HTML5, but I also see the potential danger in the way it might chip away a potentially great mobile user experience. I only have experience developing for one mobile platform (iOS) and I don’t have much of that. Still, I know that providing the users of my apps with an experience that they expect, was difficult. Oh, Apple gave me the tools (xCode) and the guidance, but it was work. I had to think about things like “am I using the right features of the device?” “Is my use of this widget/feature/transition consistent with every other app’s use of…?” Or, simply put “does this look and feel like an iPhone app?

We invested the time into building an iPhone app, for the people in our company who have iPhones. The people who want to consume information from a website already have a webpage they can go to. I hope I can use HTML5 to make that web experience better, but my fear is that the companies who don’t yet have mobile apps will simply repurpose good, albeit generic websites to mobile. Some will take advantage of HTML5’s new capabilities to make these app-pages look great on a mobile device, but many, perhaps most will simply publish a mediocre mobile-like page and move on. I say that because way too few companies bother to build or even use the mobile views that are available to them now. I read blogs that look awful on my iPhone, and all you have to do on Blogger or WordPress is to check the "Mobile View” box. SharePoint 2010 lets you configure a reasonably nice mobile view, but too many SharePoint sites I visit on my iPhone look terrible as well.

At the AIIM Conference in March, I heard two different speakers talk about companies that fail to take full advantage of mobile devices, by failing to adapt webpages to the form-factor. One man talked about the avoiding simple mistakes like making users scroll side-to-side. Another mentioned research that indicates that mobile device owners prefer native apps to web pages. He offered some suggestions for weaving a composite app from native and web-based content, but he emphasized the need to make it a seamless experience.

If you develop mobile apps, or even if you just influence the development of mobile apps within your company, don’t let those users down. Remember that it’s highly likely that they are passionate about the device they bought. Don’t give them a run of the mill user experience, unless that’s how you want your brand to be perceived.

#HTML5 #EnterpriseContentManagement #userexperience #SharePoint #mobile #AIIM12 #Web Content Management