Archive: mobile web

Information Working Everywhere

While creating a new user experience for prospective students at Ravensbourne university, we noticed a big disconnect in a very common (and increasingly key) user journey – QR codes to mobiles.

This one didn’t work.

A Bit About QR Codes

Greg hates QR codes. Really hates them. I don’t think they’re great, but they serve a purpose as a sort of stop-gap before something better (and as universal) comes along to connect the physical world with the digital one. A user wants to find out more than can be shown attractively on a printed ad, or sign up to something advertised – scanning the code is quicker than typing a URL into a phone while standing in front of a billboard in the rain.

QR codes are becoming more widely accepted, as well as recognised for what they are by the non-techie public. They’re on most billboards, printed adverts, products and product receipts and a user interfaces with them using their mobile. That’s where the convenience ends though, since most QR codes (if they work) take a user to a web page that is very hard to navigate and/or load on a mobile device. Why would anyone trust a code when the content it serves will be difficult to handle?

It’s like wanting to look at something closely, and someone handing you a magnifying glass the wrong way round.

Hopefully this will improve over time as responsive web design becomes more of a standard. James has written a really nice post about that here. It feels good to know that a website you’ve built will work wherever.

Making Information Work Well Everywhere

The Ravensbourne Digital Prospectus was the first project where we got to create a smooth user experience that starts in print and continues on a mobile device. The printed prospectus used by the university already had QR codes in the template but these directed the user to large undigestible web pages.

Not mobile optimised

We put a stop to that using responsive web design. The content changes according to the device it’s being displayed on. With mobile, the information is stacked, and the text size large enough to be easily read on a small screen.

Better.

While we didn’t design the Digital Prospectus ‘mobile first’, we did design the desktop experience to be smooth, helpful and clear. Printed material and QR codes being scanned by mobile devices is an important user journey, and now it’s as smooth and helpful and clear as it can be.

FOWD and the Responsive Web

I went to FOWD last week in London where the brilliant Josh Clark made some mobile observations.

Josh openly debated the pros and cons of ‘native apps’ and the ‘mobile web’ — in a lot of cases an appropriately presented website wins. Here’s why.

Leaving gaming apps aside that make perfect sense to run natively for obvious reasons, ‘web apps’ are often perfectly capable of offering a great mobile experience. This makes sense when you draw from Ethan Marcotte‘s ‘Responsive Web Designer’ talk in which he covered CSS methods, flexible grids and images to provide a single destination that responds to the device the individual is using.

So by way of example, look at the AutoGlass mobile optimised website versus their app. What does their app offer over the web experience in this scenario?

To my mind, a ‘responsive’ website seems to make a lot more sense than encouraging people to go out their way to download a dedicated app or even to re-direct them to a seperate m. subdomain. It seems that today’s mobile web browsers aren’t being taken seriously (Do I need to mention HTML5 and CSS3? — technologies that give us locative capabilities and more). You can read Ethan’s A List Apart article on the the responsive web design topic here.

The word “App” has become somewhat of a buzzword. The constant bombardment of app-related marketing seems to have ingrained in us an ‘app culture’ since the explosion of Apple’s App Store. Every mobile platform seems to have jumped on the bandwagon, even Chrome as a web app store — but herein lies the problem.

Unless company x provides a great app experience that meets expectations on each individual’s chosen device, they risk leaving a proportion of their audience out in the cold.

I’d hedge a bet and say iOS is targeted most, and as a result I would imagine company x ends up spending their money, time and resources on just one platform. What I’m trying to say is: the web is universally accessible. Native apps are not.

This begs the question: Why make both?

Sometimes I think we seem to see our apps as “show-off-pins”. They act as pin badges — you show off your favourite apps to your friends just as teenagers pin up movie posters on their walls. They’ve become little digital fashion accessories for your phone, showing allegiances to the brands you care about.

Take a look at my quick responsive experiment here.