There is a great hype on the mobile web at present; and rightly so.” We all know your users” mobile experience is increasingly important. Anyone who works in the web space will have been assaulted at some point with one or more of the following catch cries; Mobile First Design, Mobile Native Apps a Must, iOS before Android (or vice versa),” Web Apps are Better than Native Apps, HTML5 is the Answer, etc.
Mobile Devices, Small Screen Devices and Mobile Small Screen Devices
But what exactly is the mobile experience?” And what do we need to do to optimise it?
Maybe we should break down the commonly referred to “mobile” experience into two components;
- Small screen device experience; and
- Lower (or possibly lossy and congested) bandwidth experience.
The interesting thing about these two experiences is that while we often associate them as aspects to be considered for the “mobile” user, these elements do not always appear together.” As such, I would argue that they are two separate problems (or maybe opportunities if your glass is half full).
Small Screen Devices Are Not Always “Mobile”.
It seems as though we have reached a tipping point on network usage by mobile devices.” According to the UK”s Juniper Research, this year circa half of the data downloaded by mobile devices will be over WiFi rather than cellular networks.” And the trend is for greater proliferation of small scale WiFi networks.” Users at home or the coffee shops are downloading more traffic over better quality networks than ever before.
Not all “Mobile” Devices Are Small Screen.
Courtesy of the tablet phenomenon, there are also more “large” screen device users hitting the Cellular networks than ever before.” In fact, according to Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers iPad sales ramped up circa 3X faster than iPhone sales and tablet sales surpassed desktop and notebook sales in Q4 2012.
Not all tablets are cellular network enabled but the use it definitely increasing.” NPD Connected Intelligence Research reports that cellular data usage by tablets increased by 48% in Q1 2013.”” In addition, we know many notebook users are now making use of cellular network connections while on the move using cellular dongles and wifi hotspots shared from other devices.
Optimising for “Mobile”
Small Screen Devices
Look and Feel - Not my expertise but clearly a website with small screen device users should be optimised for those small screen devices.” I am not going to get into the discussion on Mobile Web, Versus Native Apps, Versus Web Apps. That”s for another day.
Performance – If you are in the Mobile Web space then you can make a couple of tweaks to nature of the files which make up your website to provide optimal performance of the site.” There are some tricks you can get away with when delivering to browsers on small screen devices.” It doesn”t matter what network the user is on.” You should seek to give them the best web performance experience possible.” So take advantage of their device size and optimise the content for performance regardless of network speed.” For example, stripping pixels out of images is a great way to speed up small screen device browsing without impacting user perception of the page quality.
Devices on Cellular Networks
Optimising websites for performance is critical for delivery to devices browsing over Cellular networks.” Even if running on strong LTE bandwidth, packet loss and congestion can impact the delivery of the webpage to your user; be they small or large screen device.” What”s more, as users make use of LTE networks, their expectations as to website performance change and non-optimised sites appear comparatively very slow.
There are lots of tips and tricks to optimising the files and content so that the delivery of your page is as quick as possible over cellular networks.” The aim of these tips and tricks is to reduce page content size, make shorter network trips to fetch content, reduce the number of roundtrips to deliver the page and provide improved network pathways.
So, can we say that not all mobile devices are small screen and not all small screen devices are mobile; but all mobile devices and all small screen devices should at all times be delivered a custom, optimised web experience.