In Here Be Dragons: Mobile Web and the Enterprise, Matt Menzer (@menzer) discusses the many challenges of creating mobile web experiences for large organizations and brands. This is a topic I can surely relate to.
The Current Landscape
- Jakob Nielsen’s recommendation to build a separate mobile website does a good job summing up current enterprise mobile web space.
- However, separate experiences often lead disparate experiences, often a “lite” version of an experience. For example, Pepsi’s entire mobile website is a picture of a bottle of Pepsi and a link to their Facebook page. THAT’S IT.
- Many brands understand the value of mobile web, but haven’t fully implemented a strategy. Many look for a quick fix to deal with the mobile web landscape. Packaged solutions like Usablenet are cashing in on this short-sightedness.
- Transcoding solutions pros: Quick entry, low cost, low internal impact. Cons: Standard design, usabliity problems, lack of content parity. So can a generic solution really be “mobile optimized”? No. Ultimately, these are Band-Aid solutions.
Y U No Responsive Design?
- Matt worked on Alaska Airlines, which had an existing generic mobile solution. Even the new site has a limited feature set and lacks content parity.
- Why did a forward-thinking company like Alaska Airlines who’s invested in their long-term mobile strategy not use responsive design?
- Separate device experiences won’t cut it in the long-term, but serve a real need today.
- Responsive web design has the potential to compromise the mobile design experience in order to reach more contexts. We need to curb our excitement for responsive design as the silver bullet solution. It doesn’t make sense for every situation.
- Regulation and laws influence a large company’s mobile web strategy. For example, Marlboro’s site demands that certain information needs to be displayed in a certain format, and therefore can’t work in a more fluid way.
- Who owns mobile within an organization? Often it’s a web or marketing division, but many organizations aren’t even sure. Many companies even have separate mobile strategies detached from their web strategies. These potential conflicts between stakeholders frustrate efforts to create progressive mobile web solutions.
- Lack of internal resources is a huge challenge for enterprise mobile web strategy. Outsourcing and overseas development run rampant.
- Limited project scope inhibits enterprise companies from developing better mobile web strategies. This leads to limited feature sets and content.
- Vendor partners often work together for mobile web solutions and rarely is only one company responsible for the entire digital experience. It becomes challenging to manage contractual obligations and still come up a unified strategy.
- We need to educate and advocate for future-friendly experiences. Talk to stakeholders and team members about adaptive sites. The higher up the chain the education goes, the better chance you have to get everyone on board.
- Solve your clients problems. Work towards a responsive future, but do all that you can do in your current situation to think future-friendly.
- Building modular, adaptive and scalable websites regardless of approach (rwd, separate site, or other) better prepares you for the future.
- Utilize pattern libraries, object oriented CSS and style guides as tools to get these large organizations to think more flexibly
- Separate mobile sites can be blessings in disguise, as they give a chance to focus, prioritize & build future infrastructure. For example, BBC launched a new responsive mobile web site. The desktop site still exists, but the responsive foundation has been laid.