Breaking Dev: Selling the Mobile Web

by Luke Wroblewski September 14, 2011

In their Selling the Mobile Web presentation at Breaking Development in Nashville TN, Brad Frost and Jack Bishop talked about the reality of selling mobile Web experiences to clients and the benefits they can expect. Here’s my notes from their talk:

  • Mobile is selling itself. It’s one of the hottest topics now but few people understand what mobile can do for them and the pool of talent that can execute on mobile is small.
  • The mobile web experience is being neglected. People expect mobile sites to download faster than desktop sites but the opposite is happening. Yet people are doing lots of things on mobile and want to do more.
  • Tiffany’s doubled conversion on mobile when they created a mobile-optimized site. Paying attention can have a big impact.
  • Most clients are thinking of mobile as a checkbox. They want a native application but 80% of branding apps fail to achieve 1,000 downloads.
  • Most of these branded apps are shortsighted, have limited scope, lack utility, and don’t develop an ecosystem.
  • People are accessing your content on their phone whether you like it or not. Mobile Web traffic comes from social media, search, email, SMS, QR codes and more. Long term this traffic will only increase. An iPhone app doesn’t solve the problem.
  • With every un-optimized link, you are perpetuating a negative impression of your brand.
  • People’s enthusiasm for mobile, can be used to engage them in a conversation about the value of the mobile Web.
  • Links don’t open apps, they open Web pages –Jason Grigsby. But its what’s behind the link that matters.

Future Friendly

  • Set yourself up for the future. You don’t know what’s next but it’s likely it will have a Web browser. Be prepared.
  • How do we keep the mobile Web from being a tack-on to your desktop site? Often the desktop site is “untouchable” as its been developed over years and requires lots of work.
  • Think of your mobile Web experience as a seed that can grow into an adaptable, multi-device experience to eventually replace your tired desktop site.
  • Try to prototype as early as possible in a project. It helps to educate clients and teams, makes decisions easier by testing, enables better collaboration, and demonstrates performance as a feature.
  • So what devices do we support? You’re bound to get asked this question. While iOS and Android are very attractive and drive the most use, you can’t cut people off. Make sure you take care of the less attractive platforms as well. One of the most common mobile devices coming to Nike’s site is a Sony PSP.
  • A big gripe for mobile Web experiences is lack of clarity. Show clients how the experience changes based on device capabilities.
  • It’s about usability and fluidity, not pixel-perfection. Visual design practices need to adapt in order to manage the variations in devices.
  • Developers need to go back to basics and put a lot of time into the semantics of their mark-up. Focus on progressive enhancement.
  • A common question is where do I go for information on mobile Web design and development? We need a shared resource for designers and developers to help educate and change the perception of the mobile Web. That takes all of us.