The mobile web experience with EPiServer 7 – An introduction

This blog series is about the mobile web experience and how EPiServer 7 can support our endeavor into creating great mobile solutions. We’ll be looking at the technical details but also the forces that drive us to deliver a better mobile web.

Inspiration, ideas and facts are on borrow from the books “Mobile First” by Luke Wroblewski and “Responsive Web Design” by Ethan Marcotte from the “A Book Apart”-series. I highly recommend checking out the entire series.

Why is the mobile web experience important?

It admittedly feels a bit awkward, but I’d like to set the stage and explore why we’re getting so excited about mobile solutions before we dive into code. Mmm, code.

The dominant mobile player has been the App. Whether you’re an Apple fanboy/fangirl or not you can’t argue with the impact Steve Jobs and his iPhone has had. It’s changed everything. Our PC isn’t really our personal computer anymore – our phone is. It’s what we use to check mail, check-in, status update, tweet, take pictures with, search for information, navigate with, etc. The list goes on and on.

Thanks to the evolution of the mobile device we have much, much more powerful and competent devices than we did just a few years ago. And it shows: mobile browsing is having a profound impact on web traffic as seen by the Pingdom analysis below.

A worldwide percentage of 10.01 might not seem overly impressive, but let’s put this into perspective: from 2010 the amount of mobile web traffic in Europe has increased by whopping 183.43% and in Asia the web usage is at a 17.84%. One could argue that a mobile device is a cheap and easy solution to get online which is now causing web traffic generated by mobile devices to explode.

Microsoft predicts that by 2014 Mobile will overtake Desktop for internet usage.

But there’s a challenge here as well. While the mobile web experience has been dragging its feet, native Apps have been on the rise according to Business Insider’s The State of the Internet report.

Mobile context – when and how are we mobile?

Now we know that the mobile web experience is super-important. And awesome like the Hulk. But just how and when are we mobile? What does it really mean to be mobile? Let’s talk about context for a second.

A smaller device can be used in – but is not limited to – a different context than your average Apple Thunderbolt Display (I have to get me one of those!) But still we usually think of the mobile user as a completely different being set in a different context. And yet the lines of what is mobile continues to blur with each new device, App and website introduced. We obviously need to reevaluate what it means to mobile.

Jeremy Keith on the mythical mobile context:

All those people with mobile devices sitting on a train or sitting in a cafe or lounging on the sofa at home; they are all in a very different context to the imaginary persona of the mobile user rushing hither and thither.

We have once again created a consensual hallucination. Just as we generated a mythical desktop user with the perfect viewport size, a fast connection and an infinite supply of attention, we have now generated a mythical mobile user who has a single goal and no attention span.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jeremy; we can’t assume that the mobile user is always in a specific context.

If we’re creating an online newspaper or a travel something-something website we’ll have two different kinds of mobile context. Therefore we can’t make any assumptions about the user’s mobile context without considering the purpose of the solution and how it aligns with business needs.

Luke Wroblewski argues that we should design for mobile first. This is an approach to identify the core purpose of the website and meeting the needs of your mobile users. It’s really not that difficult.

If you can agree on the most important set of features and content for your customers and business, why should that prioritization change with more screen space?

Polarization of solutions

With the mobile context set (or not!) we move over to another hot potatoe: responsive design, dedicated mobile website or even native App? Short answer: it depends and the different solutions shouldn’t be polarized. They meet different requirements.

I’ve been on projects where a dedicated mobile website or native App is a perfect fit for the client. There has also been projects where a responsive web design is ideal simply because of good hygiene and accessibility. And finally there has been projects where doing both is the best solution to meet different requirements. It depends and the two shouldn’t be at odds.

There are, however, voices raised that argue for a dedicated mobile website with limited content and/or functions because we shouldn’t serve the same website for all devices simply because of performance. That’s just sadness. We shouldn’t dumb down our user by simply stripping away content and/or functions. We don’t design a blazingly fast mobile website – we design a blazingly fast website. Less than twelve parsecs. Warp 10. Vroom.

EPiServer 7 & the mobile web

The solutions we use to provide a great mobile web experience are not inherently exclusive for EPiServer 7. We use readily available technologies such as ASP.NET MVC4, CSS3, HTML5, JavaScript and CSS minification, cache headers in IIS, etc. But what I love about EPiServer 7 is that it allows us to tailor solutions for the mobile web experience while stile providing an awesome framework and editorial interface.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee – the creator of the world wide web – along with Robert Cailliau begun the proposal for the Hypertext project in 1990:

HyperText is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. It provides a single user-interface to large classes of information (reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line help).

In other words, while the web has evolved since , we’re still in it for the content. CMS, you rock.

Okay, so enough with me rambling on the mobile experience. In this blog series I hope to get a bit more technical and address the following topics:

  • The mobile web experience with EPiServer 7 – Responsive Design
  • The mobile web experience with EPiServer 7 – Performance
  • The mobile web experience with EPiServer 7 – Forms
  • The mobile web experience with EPiServer 7 – On the topic of upgrading

I’ll update these with proper links as they’ve been published. Please note that they’re also subject to change.

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  • Joshua Folkerts

    Hey Daniel,
    I am really curious how true these numbers are for mobile browsing. I am not saying they are accurate, I am just curious how this was calculated. I use my phone to find a restaurant or check the weather. I get to frustrated with mobile browsing since most sites are still behind the times in providing a true mobile experience. Keep up the good work Daniel, always enjoy your writing.

    • Hey Joshua!

      First I’d like to say thanks for reading – glad you liked it! 🙂

      I’m afraid I can’t really say how the figures were calculated. You could follow the URLs to Pingdom, Microsoft and Business Insider. Maybe there’s more information there on how they’ve done the data mining.

  • Joshua Folkerts

    I meant to say “I am not saying they are inaccurate”. My typing is quite lacking these days 🙂

  • Pingback: Mobile-first, cloud-first approach to e-commerce | Daniel Berg()

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