Collaborative Consulting

Spotlight: Mobile Websites

A significant investment in native application development has fueled a spike in native mobile application usage. Even so, the total mobile traffic driven from mobile applications and mobile web browsing was approximately even in 2011 [1]. As of Q2 of 2011, four platforms dominate the Smartphone market [2]:

Android and Apple are the big players with a combined 67% of the device market. However, with 29% of the market share going to the next two platforms, it is hard to completely ignore RIM and Microsoft or, more importantly, your customers who use those devices. Unfortunately, each of the leading platforms has a unique development platform, technology, and application delivery model. Supporting all four leading device platforms, their individual software development technologies and complying with rules imposed by the various vendor-specific marketplaces, such as the Android Marketplace and Apple’s App Store, can be cumbersome and expensive. Mobile web applications offer a compelling alternative by supporting the creation of an engaging mobile experience across all of the leading devices and platforms while avoiding the complexity and expense of native applications.

Mobile web browsers have come a long way. Most of the leading mobile platforms share a common core library called WebKit, therefore providing a consistent, robust set of features that can be leveraged by your web application. This common foundation means that whether you are browsing on an Apple iPad or an Android Smart Phone, the device has the capability to run your application. Of the leading platforms, only Microsoft uses a proprietary platform. However, if they are truly going to make a resurgence with their Windows Mobile platform, they will need to be feature competitive.
To help you take advantage of this commonality, several standard technologies and vendor frameworks are emerging from the pack. Many browsers, including most mobile browsers, now support HTML5 and CSS3, two industry-wide standards that benefit both desktop and mobile websites. These standard technologies go a long way to providing the raw tools on which to build a robust mobile (or traditional) experience in a standardized way. Some device vendors are even beginning to roll out support within their native browsers for advanced HTML5 features such as geolocation, the ability for the application to detect the user’s physical location, and local storage, the ability for the web application to store data on the client within the browser’s sandbox. These advances are bringing capabilities to mobile web applications previously available only to device-specific, native applications.
Building on these standards, several vendor frameworks, such as Sencha and JQuery Mobile, allow mobile web applications to provide a robust application experience while handling the complexities of various screen sizes and resolutions encountered across device profiles. This is especially beneficial when building applications for both Smartphones and tablets which have very different user interface capabilities. Since the frameworks are based on JavaScript, HTML and CSS, the same technologies as most traditional web sites, most web development teams will have a solid foundation with these technologies and can avoid a significant learning curve.
To truly understand if a mobile web site might be a viable solution to your mobile-channel needs, it is necessary to look at a variety of factors. Can your mobile business objectives be met by servicing only a subset of the top four mobile platforms or do you require broader penetration into the market? Is your development organization equipped to ramp up and support 3-4 new development platforms and technologies? Does your mobile business plan account for the overhead and costs associated with the major mobile application marketplaces? Can your desired business objectives be achieved with a mobile website or is a native application the only way to go? All of these questions and more will dramatically influence your mobile strategy.
Collaborative Consulting can help your organization assess your objectives, understand your existing capabilities and take action to leverage rapidly changing mobile technologies to effectively and efficiently advance your mobile strategy. 

[1] Report: comScore 2012 Mobile Future in Focus
[2] Report: Neilsen 2011 All About Android

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About Collaborative

Collaborative Consulting is a leading information technology services firm dedicated to helping our clients achieve business advantage through the use of strategy and technology. We deliver a comprehensive set of solutions across multiple industries, with a focus on business process and program management, information management, software solutions, and software performance and quality. We also have a set of offerings specific to the life sciences and financial services industries. Our unique model offers both onsite management and IT consulting as well as U.S.-based remote solution delivery.

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