Meeting the Mobile Challenge

Panel--Meeting the Mobile Challenge: (L-R) Paul Golding, Sheila Fahy, John Barnes

Paul Golding, CEO of Wireless Wanders, led off this panel on the mobile challenge with a presentation entitled Tour of the Mobile Ecosystem.  He noted that mobile is “everyware” (analogous to hardware and software).  It is now the primary platform of engagement of information for consumers and users, and by next year, you should no longer be asking what your mobile strategy is.

We carry a computer all day long, along with our wallet and keys. In 59 countries, there are now more active mobile subscriptions than people. Last year, 6 trillion texts were sent at a rate of 200,000 per second! 32% of adults prefer text. The average teen sends or receives 3,339 text messages every month, which equates to 14 hours of attention to texting/month! The average user interaction rate is 150 times/day; once every 6.5 minutes. Any device that people are looking at every 6.5 minutes is very important!

The most popular mobile application is Google Maps, followed by weather, and Facebook.  Mobile applications are widely used in shopping; 52% of smartphone users change their minds in a store. The average time to decide on a purchase online is 1 month; on a mobile platform, it is 1 day. And when a mobile is lost, it takes only 1 hour on the average for its loss to be reported.

In the mobile environment, the balance of power has shifted from TelCo operators to app developers. Handset manufacturers have lost control over the information experience.

Mobile Balance of Power

The mobile platform has become completely open. Most phones now being sold are smartphones, and by 2013, we can expect that most people will be able to consume information and use apps.

Golding’s model of the mobile services ecosystem appears above. “Experience platforms” are where people spend their time online. The most popular one by far is Facebook. Mobile has moved from talking and texting to other things using apps. We are now in a “doing” environment.  The top criteria for selection of a phone are its operating system and app selection.

The computer we carry now is more than just a computer. It has senses–sight, touch, motion, direction, sound, and touch. This enables us to make sense of the world. (Google Goggles can detect faces, for example and Facebook has integrated this technology.) We can now interact with the world in real time using handsets.

The Internet will become the Internet of Things. There an API for everything. Intel has predicted that everything that can benefit from being connected will be connected by 2020. We can now gather vast amounts of data and process it in a real-time stream of unthinkable amounts of data. The web will be no longer static where we used to pull down documents but will become one where will consume information in real-time. It has become the “right-time web”.

Information is shifting from document-centered to distributed to linked and streaming real-time data. There is a huge shift in the way that IT is being thought about. New types of data are emerging and replacing the old transaction-based data. Information can now be tailored and made contextual.

See Golding’s Slideshare site for more resources.

John Barnes, Managing Director of Digital Strategy and Development at Incisive Media, discussed designing for mobile devices.  By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide. Mobile is part of a ‘multiscreen’ life.  The multiscreen revolution represents the growing number and diversity of screens in our lives.  Anyone building digital experiences will need to deliver effective experience across many devices–“polymorphic” publishing.

For many years developers looked at average screen sizes and aimed at that in their work. Size has increased and has splintered into many sizes, so one can no longer design to a single average size. The challenge facing publishers is the huge explosion in competing devices, operating systems, and digital publishing channels.  Digital publishing is all about the audience and content, not the technology.

Types of Polymorphic Publishing

Types of polymorphic screen life include multi-tasking, synchronous, and linear. Publishers are more interested in synchronous and linear than multitasking.

Here are some general criteria for developing an app. Commercial requirements drive the choice of apps.

Key findings: There is a high propensity for sharing, so subscription and search services do well. User behavior is changing–their devices are always on, so it is critical that apps are easy to use. Much web content is not ready for the shift to mobile yet because much of it was developed to be used on desktops with big screens.

Sheila Fahy, an attorney at Allen & Overy, LLP, described how she developed one of the first legal apps, The Little Red App, and brought it to market.

What is so special about apps? Why are we all downloading them?  We like apps because we are comfortable with them. The Little Red App was to bring employment legal facts into a single place. It took 2 months to bring it to market and cost £19,000. It is free to download. Launched in June 2011, the app has been downloaded 837 times, 760 of which are from the UK.

Lessons learned included:

  • Keep it simple. Everybody wants to do an app. Recycle something you already have. Don’t try something complex because it will be expensive to produce.
  • Don’t give away your “crown jewels”.
  • Have a business plan.
  • Keep the development team small, flexible, and diverse.
  • Deconstruct the information and work out all the links and actions needed. Draw out every screen. If you have a lot of words, an app is not for you, so you should think of something different. Nobody will read the small print–think of layering it.
  • Brand is hugely important.
  • Do as much preparation as possible before you involve the developers.
  • Build in lots of testing time.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


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