Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What is a mobile website? What are apps?

OK, true story. I have only recently been introduced to mobile websites and apps. Now that I kind of get it, I will share what I have learned with you.

Remember, by 2020, it is estimated most internet resources will be accessed via mobile device. I predict it will be sooner. Countries outside the United States are using mobile technology much more than Americans. Expect Americans to catch up quickly.

Wherever you are, customers are adapting to and using new access technology at an astounding rate. They will be asking and expecting these technologies very quickly. We would do well to learn about this so we're not caught in the awkward situation of not knowing what the customer is talking about.

What are mobile devices?
This generally refers to smartphones like iphone, blackberry, and, newest to the herd, droid. Our IT department is awash in iphone and droid usage. And boy have I learned from them!

Is our website being used by mobile users?
You bet! Many times in the past few weeks, I have encountered customers who have their book information on their mobile device and ready to show me at the desk.

What is a mobile website?
A website is designed to be used and viewed on a full-sized or netbook computer. It is easy to read and use. On a mobile device, this is not the case.

The website needs to morph into a mobile application. Tasks are broken down and more easily used via mobile. If I understand correctly, by going to the mobile site, the user will have options about what tasks he or she would like to perform. Instead of using a mouse to select options, customers will use mobile-friendly ways to select.

Will we still have a regular website? Yes
Will we still have a regular website accessible via mobile? Yes
Will everything on the website be available via mobile? Not yet, but you never know about the future.

Remember, in technology, new developments are never "either/or" it is always "and."

Paying fines via the mobile website
Renewing books via the mobile website

Apps are kind of like using a mobile website - except you do not have to go to the website! Some apps are free, others you must pay for

Examples of cool apps
Walk into Barnes and Noble and download their app. Take a picture of the book you are interested in and the app will check to see if the book is also available in e-book format. Want e-book format? Click to pay and then click to download.

Shopsavvy, an Android app, allows the user to scan almost any barcode using the phone’s camera, and it will then search over 20,000 online and local retailers to find the best price. Once the best deal has been found, users can either purchase online, or use the phone’s built-in Google Maps feature to find their way to the store.

What about the "squint" factor?
Mobile screens are still small and will not be a good choice for many aspiring users. On some mobile devices, there is still the problem of the backlighting being hard on the eyes. The good news is that the iphones are able to enlarge print without cutting off one side of the page. You will have to flip pages more frequently, but it's a start.

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