Continued Evolution of Mobile Web

Mobile web, WAP, customized web for mobile – we’ve all heard both the discussions and, in a lot of cases, misuses, of these terms. Certainly these are hot topics today as brands increasingly move into mobile and make it an integral part of their marketing strategies. While ultimately there is really only one technical web, there are currently some real differences (both good and bad) in how mobile uses the web. Let’s take a look at some of the technologies that will not only make these experiences more like the web we all know and love, but also extend the web further than it’s been so far.

The “App” Experience

The web app vs. native app debate has been raging this past month. While this debate will continue to go on throughout the year and longer, it is clear that in the near term, we will continue to talk about the web and what it means for the app experience.

Technologies driving “app”-like experiences. There are several technologies driving a push for mobile websites that function similar to native applications. Sencha, jQuery Mobile, and several others deliver elements of native app-like functionality. This functionality includes fixed navigation panels, fluid scrolling for content, content updates without refreshes, and other UI aspects. In the near term, these frameworks will continue to blur the line of the experience once you’re using the app and offer a near-identical experience to native.

Are these apps poseurs? The passionate native supporters frequently chalk up web apps as cheap imitations. There are some legitimate concerns today, with performance being the biggest one. More complicated sites take more time to load, and with mobile, the attention span and patience level is low. This can certainly lead to rapid drop-off. Additionally, there is still a lot of OS-level functionality that is not yet readily available to the device browsers, such as full camera functionality. This is also a shortcoming in the breadth of user experience the web can provide currently.

Marketing impact today. In the short term, the lines will continue to blur. HTML5 enhancements such as more robust caching and local storage will improve load times and app performance, as well as make web apps available offline. The adoption of 4G will also improve performance. Web and native apps will continue to coexist, and innovation will continue to be strong in both areas. We expect the continued growth of web apps where they become the general purpose solution with native apps will be much more specialized in their function or need. Brands benefit, as they will have lower cost, easier maintenance, and the rapid deployment lifecycles they are used to allowing brands and agencies to have more control over their campaigns.

Mobile Interactivity

With better use of web architectures, mobile brings the web to our physical lives. For a while now, traditional web architectures have allowed for multiple connected users and real-time collaboration/interaction. HTML5 now helps mobile to do the same thing.

Technologies driving greater interactions. As mobile site architectures become more technically sophisticated, functionality options certainly grow. Additionally, advancements such as WebSocket support and the rise of server technologies like Node.js will change the way people look at HTML pages and applications. What this means in English is that web apps will be real time and collaborative. They will allow tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to interact at once. The HTML standards make this much easier for developers to achieve without relying on Flash or deep server support.

Mobile will continue to be an excellent implementation of these real-time updates in our daily lives. With digital signage, delivering interactivity to digital displays will change the dynamic of how the marketing message is consumed. Gaming benefits greatly, and social also continues to get better with real-time sharing.

Marketing impact today. In the near term, brands are taking advantage of these opportunities quickly. At Cannes this past week, VW, Converse, and Tesco all had major award-winning examples of using mobile apps to create greater consumer engagement and product demonstrations. Tesco in South Korea used large-scale display ads on subway trains to create virtual shelf space where consumers could scan a product with their mobile phone and have it delivered to their home. As this interactivity becomes more prevalent, brands can continue to create deeper experiences.

3D Opportunities

3D displays are obviously hot and gaining traction in the home market. Mobile has a unique advantage in the fact that the smaller screen size can provide a 3D experience without glasses, thus allowing unique opportunities.

Technologies driving mobile 3D. Hardware acceleration for the web is being driven by technologies such as WebGL 2 and Flash Molehill. These technologies are in the early stages for mobile, but have the potential to be significant in the future as devices become stronger.

Marketing impact today. 3D is more in the planning stages today, and based on device requirements, appears to still be a little way out. That being said, early adoption of 3D can rapidly improve both the user experience as well as the chance for innovative marketing campaigns. As 3D gains more penetration, delivering that capability via mobile will drive greater content consumption, thus creating greater marketing opportunities.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.