Yesterday I attended The Guardian Mobile Business Summit in London. As a few hundred mobile marketing and business people from a wide variety of large and small companies sat and listened to talks on the future of mobile, mobile wallets and the mobile ecosystem.
Some of the talks were very interesting in the huge number of stats that they poured out: conversion rates, sales figures, profit figures, all pointing to the decline of Nokia and the rise of Samsung (a principle sponsor who gave the most monotone speech of the day). For me, the most interesting talk was on LinkedIn’s mobile redesign, focusing on the IA of the site rather than aesthetics or profit figures.
I’ve done sketchnotes for most of the sessions except the panel sessions where absolutely nothing new was said or discussed, the mobile future panel being particularly grumpy about their own subject as if they’d said it a thousand times before (and they had).
Anthony Sullivan – The Guardian Mobile
Federico Casalengo – MIT Mobile Lab
Joff Redfern – LinkedIn Mobile
Will Perrin – Talking About Local
Alina Vandenberg – Always Learning
Andreas Gal – Firefox OS
Horade Dediu – Asymco
Overall it was an enjoyable day, but lacking in any revolutionary sound bites or theories, though I’m sure that the crowd got what they wanted out of each of the sessions. My thanks to Chris at he guardian for inviting me along.
This month’s London Web Standards was on augmented reality, a hot topic a few years ago that is making its way back into people’s mindshare with projects like Google Glass. We had Dr. Paul Coulton talking about the current state of AR on mobile, Imogen Levy talking about how Westminster Abbey is using 3D and AR to improve the visitor experience, and Trevor Ward talked about how we can use AR now on current-generation devices.
We were also graced with the presence of Clare Sutcliffe, who came to talk to us about Code Club, getting kids aged 9-11 to learn to program using Scratch. The video that she showed is after the gallery.
Clare Sutcliffe on Code Club
Imogen Levy on Westminster Abbey 3D
Dr. Paul Coulton on the state of augmented reality
Yesterday, I went to Bath to learn about the latest in mobile development from some of the best people in the industry. We had talks from network operators, people who interact with developer advocates, how to make money from apps, digital media distribution, the future of the mobile web and talks about good web apps and responsive web design.
I took sketchnotes throughout the day and inked them up earlier. They were started in pen, hence being a bit rough around the edges (my FOWD set is still the high water mark personally), but have a look.
James Parton – BlueVia, Building Credible Relationships with Developers
Tom Hume – Future Web Platforms
Keiran Gutteridge – Monetising Apps
Panel Session – Taking Online Offline
Karen Barber – Media Distribution in a Digital Age
Rick Chapman – Apps, Show me the Money!
Peter-Paul Koch – The Future of Mobile Web
Phil Archer – Lessons from Teaching Mobile Web Best Practices
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to meet Josh Clark at FOWD. I’d been reading his articles about flagship apps and content first, and I was very keen to have a chat with him about a discussion I’d had with a client. I had been discussing which platform they should be targeting, and depending upon who I was talking to at the client (and their opinions on the goals of the project) the decision on a choice of platform was different.
Josh, and his mobile vs native talk, positioned this decision as an “audience/content/budget” question, which matched the conversations I’d been having with my client. At the end of his talk I said to Josh, “this would make a great flow-chart, like that one that Jessica Hische did!”, “Yeah, that’d be awesome!”, said Josh.
I’m very pleased to say, that after some delay, it’s ready for public consumption.
It’s still a simplification of the whole process but, in researching it, three things became abundantly clear:
You must know your audience – there are no exceptions to this. People use different phones for very different things. Blackberries are used by teenagers for BBM and by corporations because of it’s security and low data usage; iPhones are very high-end consumer devices; and Android phones are thought of as being for very technically minded people, but they’re also entry-level smart phones. Picking a platform without knowing what your content and its audience is a recipe for disaster.
Your content needs to be simple to access – all end-points on the flow-chart will need some form of content platform behind them to drive engagement, re-use and to keep the app up-to-date. If you’ve got an old CMS, you may have to build a light-weight web service to let your app access the content easily, quickly and efficiently. People use apps to get at content, and whether they’re a game or social media, your content is king.
You cannot do this half-heartedly – and by that I mean you’ve got to have a decent budget. Also at FOWD, Matt Gifford was joking that the £50 website was now a £75 website; apps are suffering this problem. Apps are viewed as small, simple bits of functionality that you can knock-up in a weekend; this is simply not true. Apps are often full-sized websites with the added complexity of fitting the core content onto a tiny screen, but since they look small clients think they’re easy to make and do, and are therefore cheap. Stories in the news of 14-year-olds making games in the app store top 10 aren’t helping either. Start with a 5-figure sum, and keep going upwards if you want your app to really succeed.
I also mention PhoneGap a lot in the flow-chart, and that’d because I genuinely believe it’s a great solution to the “discoverability” problem. This is where you have a mobile web site that isn’t getting enough exposure as people think of “apps” as items in the “app store”. PhoneGap fills this hole nicely, and gives you access to device hardware as a brilliant bonus. The tools are easy to use and PhoneGap Build now takes all of the hard bits of building for Blackberry and Windows Phone away.
Still, there are gray areas in the platform selection process, especially when it comes to tight budgets and enterprise apps. If there’s only one thing you take away from this tool it should be this: Content is King, know your audience and how they will use your app. The rest flows from there.