Mobile Web v. Mobile Phones
By: Mark Winter
Looking out over the horizon of geekery, I see two very compelling trends on a potential collision course. Where and when they collide could make for some very interesting consequences. One is the trend toward developing websites for mobile devices, and the other is the mobile device technology itself.
A train leaves L.A. bound for Chicago…
Ask any Web developer today about the industry’s most exciting emerging trend, and they will tell you that it’s Web design for mobile devices. I’ve read that as much as 80% of our Web surfing will be done on mobile devices by the year 2011. So, the Web consultants tell us, companies simply must be designing their sites with mobile compatibility in mind. This means either having a mirrored microsite readable by mobile users, or building your site altogether with mobile browsing in mind. Perhaps they’re right. Today.
…another leaves Chicago bound for Las Vegas…
You don’t have to be a technology nerd to see what’s happening to mobile phones. The iPhone completely reshaped the mobile device paradigm. Now competitors have followed suit, from the Blackberry Storm to the forthcoming Palm Pre. With the mobile Safari browser on the iPhone, viewing a Web page on my phone is no different than viewing it on a computer, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. And with bandwidth and phones’ processor speeds improving virtually everyday, download times are shorter and shorter and more closely resemble that which we’re used to on our desktops and laptops.
As a result, when I visit a website on an iPhone, and am automatically redirected to the mobile version of the site by a browser detector, I grouse. I don’t need the graphics-poor, content-weak, quickly loading text version of the site. I want the graphics-rich, robust version of the site that I intended to visit and that my phone supports fully.
…where will they meet? And when?
Maybe it wont’ happen by 2011, but when the majority of us (or many of us business users) are on smart devices that render graphics and Web pages quickly and richly, why will we need the mobile Web pages many are urging us towards today? To go further, will others be like me and be turned off and disappointed by the redirect? Sure, even today’s most advanced smart phones are weak when it comes to supporting Flash, Java and other widgetry. But do you have any doubt that this is coming? And soon?
Maybe we should be designing for the reality as it is today, pre-proliferation of genius phones; or maybe we’re simply getting ahead of ourselves.
If this were a race, I’d say that the technology is in the lead, and mobile Web design is lagging behind. The technology is moving and evolving so quickly, and with the adoption rate of mobile website development still so slow (at least at the corporate level), this fight may be called before the sixth round. (Hey! A new metaphor!)
Anyway, something to think about, and follow. At least if you’re into the horizon of geekery.