As businesses get serious about the cloud, developers are bringing more business-critical transaction data to cloud-resident web and mobile apps. Indeed, web and mobile apps that drive systems of engagement (how you interact with your customers and partners) are the reason why many companies look to the cloud in the first place. Public clouds offer the speed and agility developers want, plus the development tools they need. Once you’ve built a killer web or mobile app in the cloud and it’s in production, driving real revenue, who’s responsible for making sure it performs?
It’s a team effort. Developers have to think about performance management as they build, and IT operations teams need to design application monitoring and management into their cloud deployment processes up front. Why? Because there’s no time to do it later. You won’t have time to implement a new app monitoring solution for each new cloud app before you need to get it out to users. And once it’s out there, you need to be tracking user experience immediately.
In traditional IT, one of the reasons we could get away with limited insight into application performance was because we usually overprovisioned resources to make sure we didn’t have to worry about it. It’s easier to have excess capacity than to solve tricky performance problems – problems you might only see once in a while.
If you’ve been chatting with your web development team recently, you might recall them talking about responsive design. But, what is responsive design and why should eBusiness professionals be taking it seriously?
First, responsive design is not a technology, it’s a development philosophy - an approach to web development that forces user experience developers to design and optimize from the outset for multiple touchpoints including (but not limited to) the desktop, tablets and mobiles. Until now, many eBusiness teams have either developed their mobile site by coding a separate set of templates, or outsourcing to a 3rd party vendor or agency whom in many cases scrapes or proxies existing content from the desktop site. As many retailers and other eBusiness teams start to develop optimized tablet sites, there is a distinct concern that supporting 3 different sites for desktop, tablets and mobile is becoming increasingly expensive and is causing a drag on innovation momentum.
With a responsive site, developers use a single set of front-end code to build a site that responds within the constraints of the device to deliver an experience that is contextual to the size and orientation of the screen. Responsive design allows eBusiness leaders to consolidate their teams (UX designers and developers) back into a single ‘web’ team aligned around a single technology (CSS3 & HTML5) and writing a single set of code. Some eBusiness leaders are referring to this consolidation as back to “one-web” and are increasingly intrigued by the potential cost and efficiency benefits that moving to a responsive site has to offer.
Rarely a mobile conference goes by without this debate popping up: Should you build a mobile website or an application? I don’t think it really matters; in fact, I’d say it is irrelevant. This is just one of many topics where technology leads marketing by the nose— as is often the case in the mobile industry! Product strategists often forget to ask themselves the right questions: which product and services, for which audiences, at what cost, and when?
Consumer product strategists designing product experiences for mobile phones and smartphones must decide on their development priorities across the mobile Web and apps. While some believe this is a fundamental “either/or” choice, current consumer behavior suggests that consumers are using both. More than half of European (and 60% of US) consumers who download apps at least monthly also access the Internet via their mobile phones at least daily. In short, heavy app users are also heavy mobile Web users. The more frequently consumers access the Internet via their mobile phones, the more likely they are to download apps at least monthly. More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded cumulatively since the launch of the Apple App Store — the majority of them via iPhones. But this doesn’t stop iPhone owners from being the most frequent mobile Internet users: 72% of European iPhone owners (and 63% of US iPhone owners) access the mobile Internet on a daily basis.
Last year, every consumer brand seemed to be building an iPhone application. Towards the end of 2009, they began to say, 'We have an iPhone application. Now what?" For many, the answer seems to be "mobile Web." The open question is "how." I'll be publishing an in-depth study on how with my colleague Brian Walker, going into more depth on the implications of commerce for mobile Web builds. One of the strategic questions that must be answered first is, "do I build a mobile Web site for all devices (= long tail)?" or "do I have a more tiered approach with custom development for the handful of devices (short tail) which drive most of my traffic and a more automated approach for all the other devices (long tail)?" Good questions.
There are some good sources of information online. AdMob and Millennial Media publish monthly reports based on ad requests they see. Netbiscuits just published a white paper with a lot of good data.
First, how long is the long tail? According to the Netbiscuits white paper, it was 2,496 devices in February 2010. How short is the short tail (= 50% of the traffic)? In February 2010, only 12 devices. What is the number one device in each report? Yes, the iPhone -- or now iOS 4 platform. In terms of global traffic, Netbiscuits put Apple first with 36% of traffic while AdMob's numbers for Apple were a bit lower at 33%.