The mobile revolution is upon us.
During the first half of 2012, the number of U.S. consumers using smartphones raced ahead of those using ordinary feature phones, according to The Nielsen Co. And while mobile devices now account for 20% of all domestic and more than 10% of all worldwide Web traffic, some analysts predict that mobile Web access will soon overtake conventional desk- and laptop-based browsers.
No matter how you study it, there is a clear trend among consumers and business users alike toward mobility. And that means any organization that counts on its Web presence for business had better make sure its mobile Web content management (WCM) system capability is up to the test.
Suppose you have spent the last three or four years developing, deploying and tuning a WCM strategy. End users and line-of-business managers can manage content on their own. Without thinking much about it, you make it easy to produce content for full-screen Web browsers. Now what do you do for mobile Web content management? How do you extend your Web presence to the mobile realm?
Making do with mobile browsers
Of course the answer depends on how you define the problem. For starters, you might be able to make do with what you have.
Smartphones and tablet PCs include mobile browsers. As long as there is an Internet connection, you can display any website. The issues arise with the quality of the user experience. Tapping and swiping is not the same thing as pointing and clicking. With our fat fingers and the differences in screen sizes, we wind up with the time-consuming tasks of pinching and zooming mobile browser displays.
At a minimum, WCM managers need to test how their websites run on mobile browsers. By doing at least that, you might find that a few simple tweaks to your homepage will improve the user experience of your most popular links and subsections.
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But if your aim is to create exciting mobile Web experiences for customers and partners, it's important to determine what they expect to do with mobile devices. For example, if you publish a weekly e-zine, readers will expect a list of recent titles and easy access to the articles. If you promote cultural events, it's important to organize listings using meaningful categories and dates, including links to maps that show readers where to go.
The most important design factor for a positive user experience is delivering content in context. First identify the business context and then define the kinds of content your customers need, focusing on the tasks they want to complete.
Mobile and native Web apps
There are two basic ways of creating those cutting-edge Web experiences for mobile devices: by developing a mobile Web application or designing and implementing a native mobile app.
A mobile Web app uses the content you publish on your website while adapting the user experience to the form factors of various mobile devices. It is a simple way to transform content from a full-screen webpage into an easy-to-read list of topics and headlines. You just need to define the key elements -- the tags and associate content -- running on the website.
Behind the scenes, a mobile Web content management app leverages the template capabilities of a contemporary WCM system. Of course, you might have to develop separate templates for smartphones and tablet PCs, which means maintaining templates for different platforms and form factors. Some WCM systems support responsive Web design, whereby the templates automatically render content to fit the display capabilities of multiple devices.
By comparison, a native mobile app runs on the device itself. It enables the organization to rearrange and restructure the user experience -- but at a cost. It requires designing and building an app and then maintaining it over time.
Typically, developers can expedite matters by using a mobile application development platform. Some tools include capabilities for developing the application once and then supporting multiple device types and mobile operating systems from a single code base.
As part of the mobile experience, you are going to download or upload the digital content already maintained for your website. When developing the native mobile app, it is essential to define how content flows into and out of the underlying repository of the website.
Investing in an information architecture
However you serve up mobile offerings to customers, you still need to manage digital content. WCM remains relevant -- ideally, one repository should power the way content appears on multiple devices. But you now need to pay particular attention to the underlying information architecture that helps organize and structure content in the first place.
It helps if you are already building on a content infrastructure. Go beyond self-contained webpages and define your content as granular content components. There are different types of content. Name them and then tag them with meaningful metadata. Use the words and phrases that already make sense to you in your business context.
Chances are you have already developed some aspects of this information architecture when you implemented your WCM system. It is time to do more. With the mobile revolution at hand, and as your digital content goes mobile, continuing to invest in your information architecture will pay off handsomely.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geoffrey Bock is the principal of Bock & Co., a consultancy focusing on digital strategies for content and collaboration. He also is an author specializing in the business impacts of content technologies. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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