- Juniper Research predicts that 350 million workers worldwide will use mobile devices for work by 2014—twice the number who use them today.
- Gartner predicts that mobile phones will overtake PCs this year as the most common Web-access device worldwide.
- By 2015, tablet shipments will reach about 50% of notebook computer shipments, according to Gartner, with Windows 8 likely in third place behind Google Android and Apple iOS.
The lesson here is that designing for mobile first means a lot more than designing for the iPhone. In a world where there is an increasing diversity of smartphones, tablets, and slate devices, with varying dimensions, aspect ratios, and operating systems, it is up to you to make sure that your mobile user experience is just as engaging and easy to use as your desktop user experience—no matter what device a user happens to be using. The days of pinch-and-zoom Web user experiences are nearly behind us. Most marketers understand that bad user experiences result in high bounce rates and weaker Web site performance—and ultimately, weaker sales. Obsessing about mobile without considering user experience is likely to lead to disaster.
Designing for Optimal User Experience: Native Apps or HTML5?
Amidst all the rapid changes and uncertainty in the mobile-device landscape, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are now viable alternatives to creating native apps—the apps that users can download for a specific platform such as iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. We can no longer ignore the HTML5 versus native applications debate. HTML5-powered Web applications offer an enticing option that doesn’t require arduous app store approvals, platform-specific updates, or the headaches of multiplatform maintenance.
While native apps may still hold an edge in performance, the richness of their user experiences, and opportunities for monetization, HTML5 offers advantages in other areas such as cross-platform deployment efficiencies, control over distribution, and the ability to deal with platform-fragmentation challenges. Many marketers are turning to native/Web hybrids, releasing an application wrapper for a device-specific platform through the appropriate marketplace, then updating the application’s content within that wrapper via the Web. This eliminates some of the challenges around app updates and notifications and is worth considering for brands that need to update content or features frequently.
Native apps aren’t going extinct any time soon, but unless your user experience requires integration with device hardware such as a smartphone’s camera, you should give serious consideration to the Web-application option. Perhaps the most important advantage of choosing to develop Web applications rather than native applications is that they provide the opportunity to more fully integrate your mobile user experience with your desktop Web analytics. The advantages regarding distribution and updates follow closely behind.