I feel today that I must tip my hat to a few organizations (and encourage others to consider following their lead).
Yesterday, the BBC launched a responsive (mobile-only) news site (in Beta for now) and followed up today with an awesome post explaining where and how it was tested. Earlier, on their responsive blog they had posted a short list of common devices accessing the BBC web site and gone into details about their strategy and development approach.
I also had a lovely comment on my blog a few days ago from Craig Sullivan at autoglass.co.uk who explained in fair detail (given it was a simple comment on a blog) the decisions they made around device support, and the ROI they had seen when supporting older BlackBerry devices.
These are the types of conversations we need WAY more of.
I’ve been frustrated for some time that most practical conversations about ‘mobile web’ are dominated by smaller agencies and freelancers who are (mostly) unable to disclose the details of client projects.
Sharing code is easy (and effective) but often handicapped by the fact that strategic discussions contain part urban legend, part chicken bones and tea leaves, and are therefore easy to dismiss with “…oh but that’s not my market” or “…that’s not what i’m seeing in my analytics”.
These are all valid objections, but may still be immaterial when there is no broader industry perpective to weight them against.
Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, Twitter, myriads of fortune 500 companies, major FMCG brands and others are stampeding into mobile, yet keeping quiet about their device traffic, implementation and overall strategy.
While I kinda get this from a business perspective, some of these details are hardly worth keeping secret and some of this ‘strategy’ is simply good common sense. It wouldn’t hurt them to make some of it public, and would go a long way in helping our industry move forward.
What would help
Here’s what I would love to see more of from companies large and small—and ideally in all industry sectors (not just tech…how about travel, automotive, the cultural sectors?).
- Lists of common devices accessing well known sites. We all know iPhone users surf more than others. Let’s get over it and start discussing the long-tail of Android devices (and the dirty secret that each month these inch up further and will soon match iOS traffic…if they don’t already).
- Case studies of ROI when supporting many browsers/platforms. Facebook seems to be spending lots of time with WURFL lately. That can’t be because all the traffic is coming from iOS. Who else is going out of their way to support lots of platforms…and how’s it working out for them?
- Case studies comparing ROI for a responsive site vs. a standalone mobile site (which of course can also be responsive). And while we’re at it, would anyone (who has used one…rather than sells one) care to discuss the ROI of using a ‘proxy’ service? These are complex topics that are heavily linked to a site’s size, content, CMS/API and a host of other factors…but that’s what makes these conversations so valuable.
- Case studies about server-side detection and adaptation. The big guys are doing it…so why is that? Are they all just wasting their time?
- Strategies to combat the ‘ugly truths’ of fragmentation (new favourite term courtesy of these fine folks). Detecting a device, or browser feature can be tricky, but it’s often far easier than what comes next. I would love to see more discussion around what to do when detection doesn’t work as planned (…I don’t know about you but false positives and account for the majority of the bugs we currently face, and while these specific bugs will i’m sure go away, i’d be astounded if new ones didn’t take their place).
Anyone care to add more to this list (or suggest case studies I haven’t yet run into)?
And a final hat tip to R/GA who fairly regularly releases this kind of info via Brad Frost (…despite i’m sure the odd squeamishness for clients.)