There Is No Mobile Internet! – Web design

As a web designer, what do you think? Do we need to change the way we thing about web design and make it “device independent?” I tend to think so. When I design a site I prefer to think about how it will morph for each user on their device rather than “breaking” at certain points in order to serve a particular screen size. For some reason the design process flows more freely that way. But the code requires that we analyze how our web designs perform across numerous platforms.

It’s time to stop thinking about the Internet and online communication in the context of a device, be it desktop, tablet or mobile. Advances by Google and Apple have heightened consumer expectations, which now require stricter focus from us to create seamless online communications — communications that work everywhere and that get their point across. We need to embrace a device-agnostic approach to communicating with connected consumers and forget the idea of a “mobile Internet”. There is only One Web to experience.

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A Quiet Change
At the beginning of June, Google published on its Webmaster Central Blog its “Recommendations for Building Smartphone-Optimized Websites.” Its recommendations are that responsiveness — or, where necessary, device-specific HTML — is the way to build websites for today. Both methods are based on all devices accessing one URL, which in Google’s words makes it “easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to…”

Following the recommendation means making most of your Web content accessible across devices. It ensures that each link shared across the Web leads back to the same place and that, irrespective of the user’s device, everyone gets the same design experience. It aims to standardize Web design approaches, but also to standardize user experience expectations.

Shortly after, Apple announced a lot of thrilling updates to iOS 6. One of the least talked about was Safari’s iCloud tabs. This syncs your open browser tabs and allows you to continue browsing from where you left off on another device. Google’s recent version of Chrome for iOS has the same feature. The result? The ultimate cross-media surfing experience, a digital doggy bag.

After many years of Internet people working on standards, technologies and practices to bring about a One Web experience, the two companies made a big push towards making it a reality. We are now a big step closer to, in the words of the W3C, “an Internet where as far as reasonably possible, the same information and services are available to users irrespective of the device they are using.” Well, that is only if website owners and brands get their act together and change their old ways. To do so, they will need to recognize that things aren’t what they seem and aren’t what many are still peddling.

Old Habits, Old Stereotypes
A couple of years ago, mobile devices couldn’t even handle many of the Web’s fundamental standards (JavaScript, for example). But as devices became as powerful as last year’s MacBook, the technology drove a behavioral shift. It wasn’t just early adopters who were using the mobile Web. It was every person and their dog with a smartphone and a 3G connection (around 75% of smartphone owners surf the Web).

How many people are using smart phones

The line between what is and isn’t Web-enabled is blurring. People don’t see the Internet on their phone or tablet as being the “mobile Internet.” It’s just the Internet. In the words of mobile expert Brad Frost, “mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, provided it’s presented in a usable way.”

For the last few years, across categories, mobile experience benchmarking studies have been filled with recommendations to broaden and deepen the content available. Users are searching more and longer for information that currently isn’t available on mobile or even tablet devices.

mobile site or full site preferred?

This desire for information is prevalent and strong enough that many opt for a less than optimal visit to the “full site” in order to access more or other information. The fact that almost a third of mobile users are prepared to endure poor navigation, slow loading times and no touch optimization really underscores the presence of this fundamental behavior.

The Truth About Context
A common argument against a seamless One Web experience is that mobile is all about context or, more specifically, location. This is somewhat true: it is about location, but it’s not all about on-the-go location. This classic use case leads many to believe that the only information people want on mobile is action-oriented on-the-go information. The truth here can be delivered in three parts.

1. MULTIPLE COMMON LOCATION CONTEXTS
Across the world, accessing the Internet on a smartphone is most commonly done at home. Other popular location-related contexts are “on the go” and fixed locations such as work, cafes and shops.

Where are people using smart phones?

When it comes to the content of your communications, the insight here is that there is really no insight. Your user experience must cater to people in different locations. So, what do people in different locations have in common? They have a need for your information, to know what you do. How different does that need to be from location to location? Not very much.

2. ON THE GO IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE NOW
One could argue that the websites people visit at home are different from the websites they visit on the go. This leads us to the second important truth about the on-the-go context. Just because people are in transit doesn’t mean they are in a hurry. Nor does it mean that the information they are browsing for correlates in the slightest with their location. This is why Google (as early as 2007) aptly identified three mindsets for mobile, which one could argue are true of any interaction with a device. These mindsets are “bored now,” “repetitive now” and “urgent now.” Each is pretty self-explanatory. What is truly relevant is not whether someone is on the go, but what state of mind they are in when interacting with the information and how that affects the information, its format and its structure.

3. TOP TASKS DATA IS THE WRONG ANSWER
A common data set used to show that mobile and desktop users have separate needs is the top-task analysis. Here, one looks at analytics to see what tasks are most common among users on a desktop computer. Then you’d do the same for mobile visitors. Voila! Now you can put together a list of different tasks for different visitor types. This kind of research can be extremely valuable in answering questions about prioritization and in guiding the interface and UX design. It does not, however, prove that information should be different for different devices. This is because the data is tainted by pro-desktop user interfaces, non-touch optimization, clunky information architectures and slow loading times.

Read full article here: There Is No Mobile Internet! | Smashing Magazine.