The mobile Web is dead Long live the mobile Internet

P.S. (28-10-09) Thanks to Tamoggemon for including this blog in the latest Carnival of the Mobilists, a weekly roundup of the very best in mobile and wireless blogs.

Periodically, someone somewhere for whatever reason declares the death of the mobile Web. This is welcome because it allows us all to review what the mobile Internet really is and why it is critical.
Mobile Web isn’t just about having a mobile Website – though that is an important part – it’s about recognising that mobile is different. Mobile users have different requirements to PC users and mobile devices have different limitations and capabilities compared with PCs.

Does your company need mobile Web? Here are four simple questions to help you decide:

1) How easy is it to access your PC-orientated Website on your cell-phone?
a) Try it on your own phone via your mobile operator (not wireless LAN – that’s cheating).
b) Test your site on five more phones at mobiReady.
Now imagine it through the customer’s eyes. Let’s say they’re trying to find your address, phone number and/or a map of your location. Even if they have a smart phone*, it probably isn’t a very pleasant experience: slow to load…big pictures… scroll this way, scroll that… can’t find what you want… give up.
*Remember only a fraction of people have smartphones: of all cell-phones sold in Q2 2009, only 14 percent were smartphones (Gartner) – that’s sales, so the installed base will be much smaller.

2) When you want news, for example, on your phone, do you access a Web-orientated news site, when there’s a mobile-friendly one from the competition?
In fact, you’d be pushed to find a big news organization hasn’t got an extensive mobile site.
Eg: apnews.mobi; m.aljazeera.net; bbc.mobi; cnnmobile.com; foxnews.mobi; mobile.nytimes.com; reuters.mobi; mobile.spiegel.de; time.mobi; timesmobile.mobi.
Would these businesses bother, if people were happy to surf PC sites on a mobile? Of course they wouldn’t. As soon as they got a whiff of the visitor numbers, revenues and publicity that their competitors’ mobile sites were receiving, they dived in headfirst.

3) Consider this: do people on the move (on a phone) want the same things as people at their desks (on a PC)?
Mobile visitors don’t tend to browse, they access the Internet because they want something specific and they want it quick – the weather, the news, the location of a shop, the time a film starts, a restaurant review, when the train goes, to book a hotel room, to find out when a delivery is due – mobile sites make it easy.
Eg: weather.mobi; mobile.victoriassecret.com; fandango.mobi; zagat.mobi; hilton.mobi.

4) Can taking advantage of mobile media’s unique attributes make your business more relevant to the consumer?
a) Mobiles can tell you a wealth of information (depending on operator restrictions) about the customer, such as the device used, the mobile operator, even the location. This enables publishers to target services to specific devices, offer localised services and promotions and personalised services based on demographic knowledge about the types of people who use a particular phone – as well as of what the phone is capable.
b) Offer SMS alerts – mobile users will sign up to receive a useful service that adds value, whether that’s the headlines, stock report, bank statement, details of a delivery, delayed flight, promotion or discount. Eg reuters.mobi. They will click through to the mobile site to receive more information or to download a money-off voucher or free game.
c) Remember phones are the ultimate communications tool. Add click-to-call (and click-to-receive-a-call) functionality to make it easy for people to get in contact without having to jot down a number eg zagat.mobi. Give people the option to send a text to a friend with information about your location, opening times, latest product or offer eg autotrader.mobi.
d) Mobile users love to personalise their phones, with ringtones, screensavers etc. eg bmw.mobi; wwf.mobi. They welcome free content and games to help fill their idle time or something special they can send to a friend for Valentine’s Day etc – see this guide for tips and examples. And what better than a mobile voucher that gets a discount at the cinema, store or restaurant, when the phone is shown to the cashier.
e) Mobile Web integrates well with other media, such as outdoor ads. Quick response codes (a barcode that acts as a hyperlink), short codes or Bluetooth will take customers straight to the mobile site to find out more.
f) At the cutting edge, augmented reality can both capture the mobile user’s imagination: find out all about AR here.

The items discussed in 3) and 4) are referred to as the “mobile context”. Consider the context of the typical mobile visitor to your site: where are they, what are they doing, what do they want? What are the capabilities and restrictions of the access device? In what way are these requirements the same as someone sat at a desk in front of a big screen PC?
This is what makes the mobile Web a very different place to the PC Web. That’s why it’s amazing to read an article arguing that people are happy to surf PC Websites on a small screen device, that is designed for 1) making calls; 2) sending texts; 3) fitting in a pocket; 4) accessing the Internet.
Considering that number of cell-phones subscribers globally dwarfs the number of PCs (and is growing at an exponential rate), how long will it be before those people, who like shouting, start shouting (wrongly) the “PC Web is dead”?

How does your PC Website look on a mobile? Will your customers be happy with that? Comment below or email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.


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