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Mobile Web Development – What you need to know before you start building

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for building a mobile Website. Which mobile option is right for your company? Let’s review several popular and emerging mobile strategies.

Nov. 5, 2012 - PRLog -- Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for building a mobile Website. Mobile strategies are reliant upon specific company objectives and industries. Often, budget, timelines and resources play a lead role when developing and executing a mobile solution(s). So which mobile option is right for your company? Let’s review several popular and emerging mobile strategies.

It is extremely important to understand the significance of the mobile Web and the impact it will have on your business in the following years. No, I am not from the future, but statistically speaking, smartphones are continuing to dominate (http://gigaom.com/mobile/2-out-of-3-u-s-consumers-agree-were-buying-smartphones/) mobile sales. Consequently, mobile Web traffic is rapidly increasing, representing 13% of total Web traffic (http://www.internetretailer.com/2012/01/23/mobile-traffic...). Mobile Internet usage is projected to surpass desktop usage (http://www.businessinsider.com/mobile-will-eclipse-deskto...) by 2014.

At no surprise, over the course of 2012, we have started to notice more companies adopt a mobile-first strategy. A mobile-first strategy is a vastly different approach when building a Website mainly because:

1) Web designers and developers are accustomed to developing for desktops
2) Mobile screen sizes are a fraction of the standard monitor size
3) It requires a content first approach or ‘progressive enhancement’

To be ready for a mobile-first strategy, it is important to prioritize your mobile content and navigation. The first step should always be digesting your current mobile analytics. Do the current trends align with what you would actually like your mobile visitors to be reading and focusing on? Identify the top conversions on your mobile Website and work your way up. Sounds simple, right? It is not an easy task. Websites that have deep Website navigation and pages often require a more challenging mobile-first strategy.

The three most common ways to build a mobile presence:

1) Responsive Web design
2) Secondary mobile Website
3) Mobile Application (native or Web)

I-ology’s preferred method of building mobile Websites is responsive Web design. Responsive design uses a single source of content and a single URL. Google loves that methodology and has made it their preferred way (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/04/respon...) of building mobile Websites. When we design a responsive Website, we are designing for resolution sizes and related breakpoints, because responsive design doesn’t care about the device – only the screen resolution. When we designed our latest responsive I-ology (http://www.i-ology.com) Website, we featured 4 design breakpoints: 1200 px, 1024 px, 760 px, and 480 px.

However, even building using responsive Web design has its own challenges. From our designer’s perspective, the most common problems with utilizing responsive design have been building to accommodate complex tables and organizing complex navigation. While these areas require a bit more planning, skill and design strategy, they are certainly not deal breakers.

Secondary Mobile Websites are a great option when developing a mobile Website, but do come with their drawbacks. Secondary mobile Websites make complete sense when you do not need all of your content on a mobile device (although some would argue that’s irrational). Secondary Websites also allow the ability to ‘view full Website’ which is something responsive design does not allow because the entire Website is incorporated in the responsive design.

Often, secondary mobile Websites do not require any changes to existing Websites and require less time to build. However, on the down side, having a desktop full site and a separate mobile site means you will be managing two sets of content and separate URLs. For many clients, this additional set of content and the time necessary to update both sets of content, is an important aspect to consider.

Have you ever reached a mobile version of a Webpage from your desktop by accident? It happens, and it’s another downside for secondary mobile Websites. Secondary sites require browser sniffing and detection. If that detection fails or is not updated, it could result in misdirection. Because of the simplicity, secondary mobile Websites are an inexpensive option and sometimes the quickest solution, but may be a hindrance to your overall productivity and efficiency.

If you own an Apple or Android smartphone, you already know the importance of applications. Applications tend to be the most expensive solution because of the various operating systems and ongoing maintenance updates required. Each application requires a separate code base and development processes for the appropriate operating system / device.

Not all companies should build or maintain a mobile application, but undoubtedly, there is a niche for this sort of functionality. For example, native and mobile applications can be useful for managing large databases, enhanced security measures and completing specific tasks that aren’t as easily achievable within a mobile browser. Because applications can use the functionality of the phone’s internal features, such as GPS, virtual keyboards, camera and other features, it is generally faster and more beneficial to navigate through the application versus using a Web browser.

The mobile Web is a very exciting and growing industry, especially since mobile internet adoption has outpaced desktop internet adoption by eight times. Larger companies, with larger budgets and Web teams, have adopted more than one strategy, including mobile optimized Websites and complex mobile applications.

As mentioned earlier, there is no off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all solution to entering the mobile space. Many factors come in to play when deciding which solution best fits your company’s Web goals. And, for a company with a smaller budget and Web team, deciding what is the best mobile approach is a consulting and strategy challenge we thrive on at I-ology. We have come to understand that enabling mobile Web technologies and knowing what is possible from a digital standpoint is critical to doing great work. We remain committed to transforming the way the Internet is used by organizations just like yours.

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