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Monday Morning Mobile: Development Differences

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By Seth Kaplan

RISMEDIA, July 26, 2010—As the President of Mobile Real Estate ID, a Mobile marketing and technology company serving the real estate industry, one of the questions I have been asked most frequently over the past couple months is, “Why should we work with you instead of our website provider?” Originally, my response was very simple: your website provider does not develop sites for Mobile Devices. As I dug deeper into the differences between developing sites for the traditional Internet and Mobile Web, I realized that answer is in fact much more complex.

In an effort to better educate myself, clients and prospects, I sat down with John Packes, Director of Product Development for Mobile Card Cast, New York (www.mobilecardcast.com) to get a technical point of view on the issue. Packes is an expert flash and Web designer who has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies and transitioned into the field of Mobile Development a little over 6 years ago.

Seth: John, if I asked you what the biggest difference between designing for the traditional Web vs. Mobile Web, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
John: On the development side, from a basic conceptual standpoint, how you create your sitemap and develop your information architecture would be the first major difference that comes to mind. For example, on the traditional Web, users think primarily up and down, which is the result of drop down menus and drop down navigation items. Mobile Web users on the other hand think primarily left to right, so it’s important to generate ‘parallel’ content. This means that your content flow is side to side. If you want to go back to the home page; go left. If you want to explore more information on a particular tab; go right.

Seth: So in essence, separate and aside from the actual technology used to develop the site, understanding the difference in users and creating a specific user experience tailored to the Mobile Web user becomes a major factor in creating an effective site?
John: Precisely. Mobile is inherently minimal. Typically, we try to keep mobile initial loads below 100k—about the size of 2-3 website graphics, which is very difficult to effectively design. This is because the average length of a Mobile Web session still varies widely depending on the industry. Ensuring that users have an easy and efficient experience to uncover all the information they are looking for while simultaneously keeping the brand consistent and connected visually to the corresponding traditional website can be a discipline altogether.

Seth: Sounds like that would lead to a very thorough filtering process when it comes to deciding what pieces of content are included in the Mobile Web version; that’s great food for thought. From a purely technical standpoint, what’s the biggest difference between traditional Web development and Mobile Web development?
John: Nowadays, traditional Web development is done from the outside in. For example, you can create elegant and sophisticated sites that will work across all Web browsers by first coding for Firefox, then you apply tweaks (or in some cases separate style sheets) for Internet Explorer or Safari (the 3 main Web browsers). However, Mobile Web has over 6,000 different configurations of hardware and software around the world that severely complicates matters. Mobile Web development is that of lowest-common-denominator code for all devices. From that point, advanced Mobile solutions providers can detect higher end devices and add more bells and whistles for those users. The fact is, your Mobile Website must work on all devices, otherwise you cut out a significant number of potential viewers and potential customers.

Seth: John, thank you for this great insight, this will certainly help me better explain the differences.

Join us again next week as we continue to explore the differences between traditional Web development and Mobile Web development.

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