The web is dead. OK, it isn’t but it might be dying a slow painful death when it comes to how users access online tools and the platforms they use to carry out certain tasks.
This is a consequence of the media saturated world that we live in, a world where on demand is taking charge as audiences control what they watch, when they watch it and how they watch it.
This behaviour extends to the web. I for one seem to be connected to the web almost always. Either in work on my Mac, at home on my laptop or in several places on my iPod Touch. It was even worse when I had an iPhone and could access emails, Twitter and the like, anywhere, anytime.
There are huge advantages to iPhone, iPod Touch’s and the mobile web but it does mean that designers and developers now have new parameters in which to be creative, a world where attention to detail prevails, or at least it should. Will it be that the traditional web will be secondary to mobile/iPhone/iPad sites?
Let the Battle Commence
Let’s be clear, I’m not willing the web to an early grave, in fact there are some really exciting things happening online right now, it’s just that apps are in vogue and companies are tapping into this and releasing some impressive apps that continue to raise the bar in terms of aesthetics and user experience.
Subsequently, companies are finally giving more thought to their mobile web offerings and whilst it is fine for users to access sites in any and all of these ways, I find myself moving toward apps and the mobile web far more frequently than I was 6 to 12 months ago.
Mobile is the New Black
I much prefer using the apps for Facebook and Twitter than I do the traditional websites for these two applications.
The reasons for this are applicable to both cases. I find that using apps on my iPod Touch is a more personal experience, probably because the online world I’m exploring is all in the palm of my hand, literally.
I can also access it away from the formalities of a desk. Slouched on the sofa, sitting in the garden and dare I say, on the toilet. You could take your Mac Book Pro’s to these places too but it isn’t the same really is it?
Beyond the localities though, the experience of the apps is better than the corresponding websites. I have serious issues with Facebook as a site, not least because it seems to look different every time I log on. I’m not going to throw any technical terms out here, Facebook to me, is a mess.
I get frustrated using it and then I moan about it on Twitter. The Facebook app however is a delight. The main reasons why I use Facebook are to quickly see what friends are doing, to update my status or to comment on someone else’s and these tasks lend themselves better to the small hand-held screen than they seem to the big, ugly, website.
The Facebook app looks good. I’m not bombarded with ‘reconnect to this person’ or ‘we recommend you add this friend’. I have all my content at the drag of a finger and can quickly do what I need to do as I’m not one to spend a lot of time on Facebook. Therefore being able to quickly check on the iPod Touch or mobile is far more appealing than having to load up the laptop.
Even more impressive is Tweetie 2. I have tried several Twitter apps but this one for me has by far the most pleasing and impressive user experience. I can manage multiple accounts, a quick drag across the screen will allow me to respond to people, mark favourites or forward things, it is a slick experience with excellent attention to detail.
Generally of course, it does what the web version does but the beauty in the mobile version is that you can, amongst other features, have threaded direct messages, never lose a tweet with the drafts manager and there is an offline mode.
OK so the Tweetie 2 app doesn’t make the web version redundant but it makes for a better user experience, it is easy to use and it looks great, therefore it is the platform I will choose first and foremost.
The Task at Hand
The mobile web isn’t without its flaws. I find that the task at hand is often a determining factor in the platform I use. If I want to spend a long time researching for a holiday, I’ll use the traditional web, if I want to look at photos of a recent family event on Facebook I would use the traditional site rather than the app.
More and more of our tasks are now being offered in an alternative way. We can bank through the mobile web and we can use it to blog too. This is naturally going to force designers and developers into thinking of their products in new ways.
Not all sites can be carbon copied for the mobile web, they have to be re-imagined. However rather than see this as a hassle let’s see it is a chance for designers to embrace this constraint in a very positive way. It’s an opportunity for designers to distill their apps down to the very basics and focus on only the most essential features.
This is a massive opportunity to improve functionality, have fun and connect to audiences in ways that have until now, been impossible.
That’s the key, users now have a choice, a choice that will have ever increasing options with the introduction of the Apple iPad and whatever technology follows thereafter.
Not to recognise the importance of that choice and the implications for designers and developers is to risk being left behind in our shrinking, media obsessed, ever connected world.
Perhaps you think the traditional web is head and shoulders above the mobile web, if so please comment below. Also, if anyone knows how to remove a friend from the Facebook app please share as I can’t seem to do it but I am reluctant to go to the website to do it.