Mobile web development, is a service that is starting to be requested more and more by our clients. Social Media used to be the buzz word of the day, but there is a new sheriff in town - Mobile Web and Mobile App development.
With the rise in smart phone technologies and the way that we use our mobile phones to browse the web and to interact with businesses online, it is very important that your website A) renders correctly on a mobile browser or B) you've created a unique mobile app so that your customers can easily use your services on their mobile phones.
Mobile App Development
On the flip-side of the coin, the second mobile strategy to consider is whether to build a native mobile application to roll out across multiple device platforms like: Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry, WebOS, Windows Mobile and Symbian OS. A mobile application can be defined as software written for mobile devices that performs a specific task, such as a game, calendar, music player etc.
This approach provides for a much richer and better user experience as it focuses solely on the end-user and what they may want to get out of the application. A mobile application allows you to integrate completely with device functionality to ensure the best features possible within your app, such as GPS, camera, calendar and accelerometer.
Take a look at an example of a mobile app (give it time to load all the assets) we developed for Honda at the Johannesburg Motor Show. This app allowed visitors to the Honda stand to browse all of Honda's products and read about the company and its vision for the future.
There are 2 ways to approach your mobile strategy, and the first discussed here, is a Mobile Web strategy, in which you aim to make your website as Mobile Friendly as possible. In order to ensure that your website is 'mobile friendly' there are 3 goals you need to accomplish:
- Presentation - make your website work well on a variety of different screen sizes.
- Content - adjust content for mobile users which may mean streamlining content and functionality specifically for what a mobile user would need.
- Performance - give users a smooth experience, even on a slow connection by only sending them the bits they will actually need.
There are three different technical strategies to consider before undertaking a mobile web development project. We discuss each here:
1. Separate Sites Approach
This is a very popular approach and many of the major web apps use it including, Facebook, Digg, Flickr and YouTube. By implementing a 'user-agent detection sniffer' you can detect whether a person is browsing your website from a mobile phone and direct them to a separate url like http://m.mywebsite.com. This approach can solve all the 3 goals above at once - if the user's browser looks like it's on a phone, you serve them mobile content, formatted for their phone and optimized for speed. The downside to this approach is that you now have to maintain 2 separate sites, 2 sets of content and 2 sets of front-end code.
2. Responsive Design Approach
3. Hybrid Approach
The third and final approach aims to combine the first 2 strategies to avoid some of their shortcomings. This Hybrid Approach centers around breaking down mobile development into its 3 goals (listed above), and then applying the best techniques available to tackle each goal individually. The most important concept to remember is that server-side and client-side techniques can be combined to fit your situation.