Web development

The mobile web – adding value to your website

The mobile web, adding value to your website

Q: What is with you most of the day (and night) next to your wallet and your watch?
A: Your mobile phone!

About a year ago I received my upgrade-phone, an XDA. Nice piece of technology, fairly quick (for a Microsoft OS), it has Sat-Nav and I can sent and receive my emails. Plus, it has WiFi and a nice display size. Plus it allows me to go online quickly to check for information: be it the AA or BBC travel website, order updates or tracking and at times even social networking sites (I know I’m sad). The though is now, how can we use this very personal device for our client’s websites? What are the benefits – and how can you make use of them?

Many of the clients and projects I am working on are in the travel industry, a market with the intention of getting you – the user – to plan your holiday with them. Holiday, the probably most important part of your work life! Once we made a commitment to planning a holiday you are prone to be looking for the following:

  • Nice pictures – after all that is the first thing you will be looking at!
  • What is included – you’ll be paying a lot for the trip, so there better be something nice to go with it!
  • Optional extras – sometimes you want a bit more to do there or want to see a bit of the area
  • Price – can you even afford it?

So, effectively, there isn’t much you can work with when it comes to trying to offer holidays on your mobile phone, right?

Wrong, there is actually.

In today’s fast living society we seem to be more and more dependent on the mobile phone as a means of (business) communication and entertainment. With the mobile phone being with us nearly all day, every day we can easily look at its advantages as a media platform:

  • It is personal – this is your phone, you do not share it
  • It is personalised – custom ringtones, wallpapers and even menus are styled / arranged the way you want them to be
  • It is portable – unlike a laptop you do not have to carry a big bag (or envelope if you’re an early adopter of the macbook air) and cables around
  • It is always on – unlike a boot process of Windows or OsX it takes just seconds to switch it on and you’re ready to go (or call, or text, or browse!)
  • It is intuitive – mobile phone manufacturers spent a hell of a lot of money on making this little device easy to use, by everyone
  • It is increasingly becoming more and more functional, way beyond its original idea of mobile communication.

With the introduction of the iPhone and its SDK user are more and more interested in developing / designing for this device and the mobile web in general. The iPhone’s ability to render websites fairly accurately has sparked web designers’ interests (again) in building content specifically for mobile web users. The steps to take to convert one’s site to a mobile-friendly version are fairly straightforward: stripping down the image content, reducing the amount of markup and CSS and restructuring the content to make navigation easier and information quicker to access.
Some eCommerce companies here in the UK are already making use of the mobile phone’s capabilities, the online retailer Scan.co.uk for example sends the customer a text message once the order has been shipped, together with a tracking number. Another company sends out text-reminders of special offers or when a product you are after is back in stock, and others even send you voucher-codes!

So other than these ‘usual suspects’ what else could we offer to our clients to get the most out of the mobile web, both for pre- and after sales?

  • Up to date travel advice: by logging into the mobile version of the travel website you can see the latest information about your booking such as when your flight will depart, if there has been a delay or even such trivial things as the weather (why trivial? Because whenever I went on holidays it was always raining when I arrived at the destination!!)
  • Addresses at your fingertips: have you forgotten what the name of the hotel was or what street it was on? Or are you running late and forgot the hotel’s phone number? Log in to the mobile version and check up on the booking details to find out exactly what the hotel was called, where it is and what number to dial.
  • Reminders from your travel planner: are you using the company’s travel planner to plan out your activities and visits in the area? Through a text messaging service you will be informed about where to go and what to do next 30 minutes before the event: “Travel planner reminder: you have booked a table at restaurant name at 8pm”
  • Share your experience: does the travel company’s website feature user-generated content? Log in to the mobile version of your profile and start blogging while sitting in a cafe or from the balcony of your suite!
  • …and see what others have to say: receive updates / comments on your blog or own comments through the phone, with the ability to respond right away!

With these ideas in mind – as well as the planned personalisation module – we at the company I work for will be working on a range of projects which will be introduced to our clients over the next months.

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