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"mobile" category

How Mobile Devices are Shaping Websites and Software - Part 2

30th July 2015

In 'Part 1' of this article we talked about how mobile devices have changed the way we use and access information on the web. Here we will discuss the historical shifts in popular technology trends.

The problem (and the thrill) for technology companies trying to keep pace with the speed of innovation is that the fundamental drives and habits of consumers alter as new 'disruptive technologies' become available. As it is very, very hard to predict what the next habits of mainstream society will be, large companies need to gamble, or risk losing out to smaller, innovative businesses - of course, the bigger they are, the further they have to fall!

desktop computer and various other devices

An example of a major, historical technological shift was IBM's misjudgement of the importance of the pc. In the early 1980's, the company was the leader in the IT market - in both software and in hardware. They then approached 19 year-old college drop-out, Bill Gates who was a co-founder of Microsoft, to provide them with an operating system; the way history progressed could have been very different, had they not allowed the young Gates to maintain property rights of his product. Nobody at IBM expected the pc market to grow as it did. The company regarded pc's as an exciting gadget, not the direction of the future. Their choice to instead focus on mainframe computers (powerful commercial computers for various large-scale applications) preordained their near demise - they failed to profit as desktop computers increased in popularity and in 1993, IBM created a media storm when it reported massive financial losses. The reasons behind this were cited as a combination of increased competition and a changing market.

Another of the largest technological revolutions to date revolves around Microsoft's rival, Apple. In 1997 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, but was ironically saved when Microsoft invested $150 million in the company. Microsoft's thinking behind the move was partially to prevent accusations of monopolizing the pc market but also to continue its promise of developing Mac versions of its software. Of course Apple then created its own innovative market opportunity by focusing on mobile devices: creating the i-phone and the i-pad. This takes us to our present day situation, where Microsoft has been left behind for not adapting to the mobile trend in time. In a startling change of fortunes, Apple is now the world's most valuable company.

As awareness of the nature and increasing frequency of disruptive technologies increases, companies realize that to stay relevant they need to predict future trends. As part of their search for direction, Microsoft have made an attempt to bridge the gap between various mobile devices and pcs/laptops and to consequentially win back pc users: the new "touch-first" operating system which could run on any platform: Windows 8. As you're almost certainly aware, there was a fair amount of media criticism when this OS first hit the shelves... Part 3 of our article will analyize the positives and negatives of Microsoft's latest operating system Windows 8.

How Mobile Devices are Shaping Websites and Software - Part 1

9th June 2015

The dramatic rise in the use of mobile devices is evident all around us: business people on benches in the park scrolling through the latest news articles on their lunch break, new parents using price comparison apps to ensure the weekly nappy spend is within budget, and of course for every street gathering of children or teens, at least one is guaranteed to be checking their phone. Here in Oxford during tourist season, phone cameras have greatly eclipsed regular digital cameras as the method of choice for documenting a rainy summer abroad.

According to a study by Cisco, the growth of internet traffic on mobile devices is predicted to grow by 66% each year until 2017, at which point total mobile internet traffic is anticipated to exceed fixed (or "non-mobile") traffic. Sales of tablets are predicted to overtake PC sales in the next couple of years and more apps are being produced to make viewing online content on mobile devices quicker and easier. The way we view the internet continues to rapidly evolve.

Mobile Technology

To keep up with the changing way we view the web, most new websites are optimized for tablet and mobile. Existing sites are redesigned and relaunched with mobile-friendly interfaces, and even the kind of information they display - the very purpose of these websites is evolving in order to stay relevant. But how? And do you need to alter your website?

As mentioned before, apps are increasing in number. Popular business networking site LinkedIn was initially designed as an online CV and employer database with embellished functionality. Now it has five mobile apps to carry out different functions to help tailor site experience to various user categories. For example, the 'Recruiter App' was produced to connect job seekers with recruiters. LinkedIn also bought newsreader service app 'Pulse' last year, hoping to increase regular site usage with informative industry and business articles. However, there needed to be an underlying reason for such an expensive takeover and the costly developer time needed to produce these apps. LinkedIn plan to monetize extra page visits by using advertisements.

Mobile devices, are best equipped for information consumption on the move, rather than content creation (mainly due to slowness and inaccuracies of touch-screen keyboards or tiny keys). The commute to London on the Oxford Tube is made much more palatable with a tablet to hand. Engaging daily articles from Pulse and simplified viewing and navigation provided by the other apps should make them much more appealing to this sort of audience. Additionally, regular site updates also improve Google and other search engine rankings and therefore increased 'hits' - the benefits of a dynamic site in the vast majority of cases can't be disputed!

Although LinkedIn is a successful company attaining yearly growth, as things currently stand, their takings are mainly obtained from recruiters paying for database access. When you compare its figures to other popular sites, it is clear there are better revenue models in existence: Facebook boasts over one billion users visiting at least once a month compared to LinkedIn's 200 million (out of more than 300 million members) coupled with a slower rate of income growth. Although LinkedIn has never called itself a 'social network' it realizes that the ad models used by content rich sites such as Twitter and Facebook will increase its growth, allowing it to keep pace as one of the world's most prominent websites. Increased phone and tablet usage from commuters and casual evening and weekend browsing is propelling a web-wide increase in content-driven sites.

Taking mobile development a step further, online photo and video sharing site Instagram, created in October 2010, was one of the first companies to adopt a 'mobile first' ethos; the Instagram website wasn't rolled out until early 2012, having existed purely as an app for Apple and Android products prior to this date. Instagram entered the market with a dynamic, innovative attitude and armed itself with endless quirky, retro photo filters to appeal to a growing hipster community. Its pioneering 'mobile first' approach: primarily designing for small screen access, worked well for the company. Their app pre-empted a genuine need of a public platform to upload and share photos taken on-the-go with phone cameras. However, the 'mobile first' design method is only suitable for certain applications which fulfil similar market demands. In truth, few such companies have achieved great commercial success: it has always been difficult to predict market paradigm shifts in technology development. As the pace of change quickens, predicting the next trend in technology usage is viewed by most as a black art.

Apps are currently only economically viable (and constructive) for large businesses. However, we'll discuss excellent alternatives for smaller companies in later sections of this article. In 'Part 2' of 'How Mobile Devices are Shaping Websites and Software', we expand further on the history of paradigm shifts in technology and discusses the widely criticized Windows 8 operating system.

The website that grew, part 12

4th November 2013
Categories: gimp, mobile, tWtG

(for previous installments, try the tWtG category)

A glitch occurred in the website building process, when John tried to look at the website from his phone.

"This is tiny.  How are people supposed to buy cheese from this?"

Kate had briefly discussed mobile website support with Hugh, their web developer, but dismissed it early on because of the cost.

"All you have to do is pinch and zoom.  If people are buying loads from us, we can make a prettier mobile website in a second phase."

"Hmm" said John, but he decided not to argue.

There was another problem with the issue of photographs.  Hugh's website content management system allowed Kate and the others to upload large photos of cheese boards and cheese wrapped in packets, but they would need to take photos on a regular basis, and the photos needed cropping and colour correction.  Hugh wouldn't be able to do this for them every week, unless they paid him.

Hugh introduced Kate to GIMP, a free photo editing tool which does many of the things Photoshop does.  "It's a little quirky", said Hugh, "but once you know how to do the basic things, it's very quick and easy."  Kate struggled at first, but after a session with Hugh and some reading of the online GIMP tutorials, managed to do what she needed.

Finally the website was ready to launch.  Hugh's company put it live and then switched on Google Ads to get more traffic to the site.

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