The mobile technology landscape is incredibly confusing. There are numerous choices, ranging from new HTML5 technologies, native app development methods, and all sorts of content management systems.
At first blush, it seems problematic that various properties have picked completely different architectures for mobile delivery. A technologist’s initial inclination is to have everyone run a consistent architecture across all of our properties. Yet it actually makes sense to run a variety of architectures to support mobile delivery.
The biggest issue to address is the ongoing tension between HTML5 and native. Most of the debate between the two is focused on different technical features that very quickly delve into minutia. However, the actual decision between the two should be made based on the type of traffic a site has.
Where’s the traffic coming from?
If the majority of a site’s traffic is side door traffic from Google, Facebook, and Twitter, the site should embrace mobile web and HTML5. Since most of the site’s users are arriving via links, the content must quickly load in the mobile browser. Such sites include music lyrics sites such as our site MetroLyrics and other types of information look up sites.
Sites that have an even mix of direct and side door traffic should also implement both native apps and an HTML 5 mobile view. A word of caution, however: there is always an inclination to heavily promote your native app to everyone going to your mobile Web site by forcing users to click through a native app promotion. This is a way to piss people off. Most of those visitors are clicking on a link in Google or Facebook and expect to see the content. They don’t want to download your app.
What can you spend?
Once you determine whether to build an HTML5 mobile Web site or a native app, the next big question is how much you are willing to spend. Really, there are only two choices: complete and cheap or custom and expensive
Libraries like jQuery mobile and Sencha mobile provide excellent HTML5 iPhone-style user interface controls, and it is easy enough in modern web frameworks such as PHP and Ruby to detect what type of device is requesting content and delivering a customized page for particular screen sizes, known as the “if viewport then” technique. It is tedious and cumbersome work, but can be done, and provides an excellent level of control and flexibility.
For properties that contain primarily text and images, you could consider a hybrid HTML5-native approach, where a mobile-optimized HTML5 site is wrapped with a native wrapper like PhoneGap. While this sounds like an ideal solution, consider that this approach is quite nascent, and that it takes quite a bit of work to make HTML5 work and look like a native app.
In summary, when discussing your mobile strategy, use the type of traffic your site has to determine whether to use HTML5 mobile Web or native apps, and then use your level of budget to decide whether to go turnkey or custom.
Posted by Blogs team @ GOTOM Tech – Adding value through technology.
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