Deciding to Go Mobile

Companies with an established web presence must consider a mobile presence; this means having mobile apps that interact with its’ primary services. All major social media services have invested significantly to boost mobile accessibility. It was forced on them. Their monthly active users already consume services on mobile devices on par with computers; in the future, mobile usage dwarfs computer usage. Just consider, IBM recently made a whopping four billion dollar investment in cloud and mobile computing.

Going Mobile
Going Mobile

The question in balancing a web presence and mobile presence should be based on processes. Breakdown how consumers use your services in tasks, then answer the following questions:

  • How much time does it take to complete the task? Does it require focused attention? With Twitter, it is easier to view Tweets and respond to others from the app; in fact, for many, it is a requirement to be active on Twitter all day long. When you are running campaigns and researching what you are going to broadcast on a given day, it is easier to use web services.
  • Who is consuming the service? Are they likely using a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or computer? When are they accessing the content – before, during, or after work? Where are they – in the car, at their desk, or at home? Facebook – popularized by the younger generation – is an important communication platform. For the older generation, it is a source of recent news. Users access Facebook via their smartphone whenever there is a break in the day.
  • What content is used? Is it memory intensive? Does it require a lot of processing? What is the optimal screen size to view the content? LinkedIn comes to mind. Conducting advanced searches and reviewing many profiles in a sitting is easier to accomplish through its web service, but it is easier to send quick messages, make connections, and check updates on its app.

There are three strategies to establish a mobile presence. First, create your own set of apps that run on the three main platforms – Mac IOS, Windows 8, and Google Android. Second, provide API access, so third-party developers create mobile apps based on your service. Third, make your website mobile friendly – having it responsive or delivering content in a different way; all mobile devices have browsers.

There is always a place for a standard computer. Much of the content we consume requires a larger screen, better processing power, and faster memory access. There are tasks like programming, writing, editing videos or graphics, playing graphic intensive games, and analyzing or modeling statistics that you do predominately on a computer.

An advantage with using a browser as opposed to an app is it has a standard protocol: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With HTML, the structure, tagging, and functioning of websites are supported universally by a worldwide consortium. This ensures there is a security apparatus in place. It is easy to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript quickly, (to see the underlying code of any website, simply view the source code from within any browser). It is also easier to develop websites. You can code a website in a text editor then upload it to a server, altogether taking you five minutes. With apps on mobile devices, there are far less rules and it is more challenging to learn all of the intricacies. For example, with Android, you download an editor, install Java, and use an emulator (of how an app works on various devices); moreover, there is a clear learning curve with programming in Java.

Apps are becoming a staple of future generations. (People label Generation Y as digital natives, I label Generation Z as mobile natives.) Apps probably become more prevalent than websites in many things, though websites will always have its place. In going mobile, companies need to breakdown things down into tasking – when, where, and how content is consumed.

Original Image © Depositphoto/ cienpies #9857738

Generation Z, Mobile Natives

While I looked into the ‘monthly average users’ for the big four social media services, I realized there is a major new trend: users are using mobile devices on par with regular desktops. According to a recent publication, Facebook has reached 1 billion monthly active users using mobile devices compared to 1.28 billion overall. And this is also playing out with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.

The major implication is a good web service must function just as well on a mobile device, it cannot be a secondary afterthought. It is not like building a web service first and then saying “Oh, maybe I should make this mobile friendly.”, but rather, “How can I make a web service that functions on a desktop and mobile devices effectively, where there are little discernible differences in functionality as I go from one to the other?” Another implication is the next generation is being brought up using mobile devices, and could be labeled as ‘mobile natives’ (in a similar fashion Millennials are labeled as ‘digital natives’).

Network vs Identity
Network vs Identity

The use of mobile apps is soaring. There are millions of apps offered on Android, Windows 8, and Mac OS platforms. What is great about apps is they do one simple task really well. You can have hundreds of apps, each providing a particular service.

Our next generation will be accustomed to this ‘app way of doing things’. Microsoft realizes this. This is why they changed their operating system, Windows 8, into a hybrid of what they had before with an app interface. They want to have their operating system accessible on all devices, desktop and mobiles. Facebook realizes this too. This is why they acquired Instagram and WhatsApp.

I do not think usage of desktops disappears. Simply put, there are just too many things we do that we prefer a larger screen or more processing power, and if you are at a desk, why not take advantage of it. For example, if you are playing a graphic intensive game, you need a desktop. So the platform we use is dependent on the task we are trying to accomplish and whether a desktop is accessible. That’s why new web services should be built to work on both desktop and mobile devices effectively.

In a New York Times article, the CEO of a content distributor says:

We used to interact with personal computers daily, for two or three hours at a time. With laptops, we started interacting three or four times a day for 20 minutes each. Mobile phones made that into sessions of two minutes, 50 times a day.[i]