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Ask the Experts – Designing for Traditional Web vs. Mobile Web

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Life in Mobile by Seth Kaplan

RISMEDIA, September 15, 2010—In the world of mobile marketing and technology, one of the questions that comes up when talking about a mobile Web solution is, “What’s the difference between what my website provider is offering and what a mobile company can do?”

The simple, non-technical answer is that a mobile company specializes in building websites specifically for use on mobile devices. However, in order to provide our audience with an in-depth answer as to why it’s in their best interest to work with a mobile solutions provider to build their mobile Web presence, I thought it would be best to tap a couple of experts for those answers.

The experts I spoke with were Ryan Jennings, managing partner of Indigo6, a graphics design and digital communications company based in Norwalk, Connecticut (www.indigo6.com), and John Packes, director of product development for Mobile Card Cast, New York (www.mobilecardcast.com). Here’s what they had to say.

Seth Kaplan: Ryan, let’s start with you. How is your firm, a traditional Web design company, handling the consumer and market demand for a mobile Web presence while still focusing on your core?
Ryan Jennings:
Given the range of mobile device capabilities, it’s impractical for us to manually version content for delivery to the largest audience. Today, digital agencies like us need to partner with channel experts like Mobile Card Cast to ensure the message we create online reaches the largest audience in the most compelling way. In short, we continue to do what we do best—create content—and have our mobile partner format the content for all mobile devices.

SK: John, what’s the biggest difference between designing for the traditional Web vs. mobile Web?
John Packes:
It’s a different process from the beginning. On the planning side, how you create your sitemap and develop your information architecture would be the first difference that comes to mind. For example, on the traditional Web, users see content going up and down and left to right, which is the result of drop-down menus and drop-down navigation items, along with breadcrumbs and back buttons.

So on the Web, you can have a rich site map with deep content. Mobile Web users, on the other hand, think primarily left to right—typically, content is more parallel than deep on mobile, mostly because of the smaller screen and interface limitations. So, it’s important to display mobile content in a side-to-side manner. 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. Although the content is the same, it’s important to present it in a way that mobile users can easily grasp and start using intuitively.

SK: How about from a purely technical standpoint—what are the most glaring differences?
JP:
When it comes to mobile, as Ryan mentioned, making sure the mobile website displays properly for all Internet-enabled devices—not just iPhones, for example—is a very vital piece of the development task. In addition, the mobile development toolset leverages the power of the mobile device to provide for a different and more interactive experience.

For example, we’re able to implement GPS technology through the mobile browser to point mobile users to destinations (homes for sale) that are physically near them. Mobile also allows for integration of some other device features, such as click to call, click to SMS (not on PC), and click to e-mail functionality to allow customers to contact you instantly. Mobile providers can coordinate and integrate intelligent SMS strategies in order to build your marketing database and drive traffic to your mobile website.

The mobile toolset of yesterday was limited. Today, it expands daily as mobile devices and networks available become increasingly sophisticated, causing mobile devices to account for a greater percentage of overall Internet traffic.

SK: Thank you both for taking the time. I think it’s fair to say from your answers that there are certainly undeniable benefits that can be realized when selecting a dedicated mobile solutions provider to build your mobile Web presence.

Seth Kaplan is president of Mobile Real Estate ID.

For more information, visit www.mobilerealestateid.com.

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