The rise of web-enabled smartphones and tablets has ignited a lively debate between different camps of web developers about how mobile content should differ from traditional web content people would access from their desktops. While mobile developers actively scramble to come up with new ways to keep mobile users engaged in what they consider the “mobile web,” mobile web users simply want their mobile web applications to help them get stuff done fast.
Much of the debate centers on the needs and context of the user, as explained in a thoughtful article by Christiaan Lustig on netmagazine.com. For example, say you book a flight on your desktop computer. Your goal is to book from point A to point B. Later, while you are waiting in Minneapolis for your connecting flight to Seattle, however, there is a delay that significantly disrupts your schedule. Your context has changed and you need very specific content very quickly: Can you rebook on another flight? Can you send documents ahead to the folks in Seattle if you can’t make it there on time? Do you need to book a hotel room for the night? What is there to eat in the area?
What mobile users need is useful mobile web applications that skip over the bells and whistles and go straight to the information they need now. Whether shopping or looking for directions, the vast majority of mobile web users will not waste any time on a website that is not helping them find what they need right away, according to statistics from the Google Mobile Ads Blog. So the key issue, for mobile developers, is to cut away all of the non-essentials that may be fine on the desktop version of the website and narrow it down to “What do our mobile users need to do right now, and how can we help them get it quickly and effectively?”
Of course, people don’t only use their smartphones for business. There are plenty of leisure applications too, but still, the most popular mobile apps and games seem to focus on doing one thing and doing it well. Whether it’s a GPS app, a weather app, a game, a social networking app or an app that helps us track calories or find out what constellation we are looking at, useful information, presented in a fast, compact manner, is the order of the day.