By Peter Behrend, Chief Technical Officer
Few people, I think, (and only the bravest) would have predicted the spectacular success of the tablet market when the original iPad was launched by Apple in 2010. Even as I write this, Microsoft’s spelling correction can autocorrect iPod and iPhone for me, but iPad remains an unknown. With similar communication technology footprints of WiFi and 3G, and with the convergence of tables and smartphones in terms of size (smaller tablets, larger smartphones) one might expect these devices to be used in largely similar ways, but are they?
Adobe recently released its State of Mobile Benchmark Report for Q2 2013 identifying key differentials between these two mobile devices and their owners’ experience across industries, devices and countries. The report is well worth reading in its own right, but below is an executive summary, together with a few observations of my own.
From Adobe’s analysis of the tablet/phone divide by market, it would appear to be “horses for courses”; retail, travel, and hospitality sites received the most tablet traffic, whereas telecom and media & entertainment sites were visited by mostly smartphone users. If you’re spending money, it seems, you like to see what you’re getting for your money. With our successful (and growing) penetration of the telecom and financial services markets, we see the importance of providing more than just brochure-ware. Users are increasingly demanding, and expecting, personalised data feeds and an enriched functional experience which will allow them to engage with their providers interactively and securely. The opportunities for back-end integration afforded by Creative Virtual’s web engine ensure that these needs will be met as the mobile market develops yet further (see, for example, the Verizon story on the website).
When developing your own mobile apps, be mindful of screen size. Tablets are getting smaller and smartphones are getting bigger, but despite this convergence there are still significant differences and you will need to focus on how people will engage with your app from a mobile perspective. For instance, the study found that more people (75%) read using a tablet while only 23% use their smartphones as readers. That might seem blindingly obvious, but it also speaks to the amount of written content you can reasonably expect your users to scan to get to the main point. Video on tablets is still outpacing video on smartphones, so before loading your app with moving pictures, use this information to design your app intelligently so as to promote usability and fast content delivery.
Another important lesson is to think globally. Your app can be accessed by people anywhere in the world. Different operating systems dominate in different parts of the world. While iOS remains the leader in US, UK and France, Android is favoured in Japan and China. Although not listed by Adobe, from my own experience you can also add the Indian subcontinent to the Android fan-club. Wherever you look though, no one single operating system dominates (yet), so don’t make the mistake of just designing for one. Beyond the technical aspects, consider a multi-lingual approach. Most people prefer being addressed in their native language, so identify a delivery system that will enable you to fulfil your long term goals and roll out your app accordingly.
There is one thing, however, that user engagements though mobile and desktop devices do have in common – conversion is almost equally difficult. On anybody’s techno-radar, the two biggest blips are currently social media and mobile, and again we are seeing convergence. Adobe reports, for example, that one third of all likes on Facebook now occur via a mobile device so be prepared to move into social media if you haven’t already done so. With interfaces for both Twitter and Facebook, Creative Virtual is already well placed to help our customers ride the wave.
One final word of caution – service on your mobile device is about more than the strength of your signal. Too often companies become blinkered by conversion, losing sight of the other factors that drive customers to action, such as customer service. When customers have questions, they want answers. Incorporate your customer service model into your app and employ technologies that help facilitate conversations on a mobile device. Here traditional search bars and FAQs won’t work. They require extensive navigation, keyword identification and scrolling. You need tools like virtual agents to help customer finds the content they want – fast.