Why the Mobile Web is Not the Traditional Web

Apr 4, 2011

Scott Forshay

In the infancy stages of the mobile market’s development, much has been made of the evolution of solutions and applications designed to provide unique experiences and compelling touch points for shoppers to engage with brands, regardless of time or space.  In our rush to create the next big bright shiny object, however, much of the fundamental advantage of the mobile medium has been ignored.  Static product catalogs, runway video content, mobile lookbook content, blog integration – all have value in providing customer accessibility to fashion brands, but all are based on a unidirectional communication strategy, without consideration given to designing to the strengths of the mobile medium.  Addressing ineffectiveness in mobile design requires employing disruptive practices to deconstruct existing models, highlighting what has historically been underleveraged and rethinking how the mobile experience differs from traditional, stationary web models.

 

Although they share a common infrastructure, mobile is not the traditional web.  The differentiating elements of the mobile medium have few equivalents in the stationary web world.  The stationary web is exactly that – inactive.  With that said, why would mobile design, which should be focused on creating an experience unique to those who are actively on the go, be constructed with an inactive model in mind?  For mobile design to ultimately provide a distinctive and valuable experience for shoppers, incorporating actionable, socially connective, and immediacy-based elements unique to the medium, is paramount.  Design frameworks should present actionable, mobilized functions at the forefront of the encounter with passive, unidirectional digital assets providing background aesthetic.  Integrating location recognition, personalization, time-sensitivity, voice capability, integrated camera functionality, and social connectivity into design must be given primary consideration as these are the distinct strengths of the mobile medium.  In essence, designing effectively for mobile engagement requires forgetting most of what we know about web design principles.

 

Think of a typical stationary mobile web or application design.  Always in a mobile web offering, you’ll be directed to a static main page with logo and a hero image and list-formatting of product categories – a 1.0 construct simultaneously inactive and medium limiting.  Imagine visiting the same site from your mobile device and being greeted with choices of how you want to interact.  Mobility is primarily about location awareness and immediacy, so imagine being actively prompted as you navigate to a site with a request to find your location, based on your GPS coordinates, in order to better serve you with more geo-relevant information.

 

The inherent interconnectedness of social and mobile is undeniable, and therefore, bringing social functions to the forefront in mobile design is imperative.  Being presented with an actionable menu of social functions like the ability to check-in to the mobile site via Facebook Places, and have immediate connection with like-minded fashion enthusiasts in your social graph, enables sociomobile threading.  Selecting one click log-in to access your profile which would include your stylistic preferences, purchase history, or a curated closet of items awaiting a viewing, creates a highly personalized brand experience.  Being offered the ability to one-click call a store associate nearest your location could save you time searching for a product or inquiring about inventory at your nearest store.  These are unique mobile-specific functions that provide a truly distinct encounter that plays to the strengths of the medium.

 

By simply disrupting the stationary web design norm – by pulling to the forefront those actionable and social functions most conducive to the mobile experience, and pushing back stationary elements to the background, the new mobile principles create an encounter that is entirely unique and provides utility in shopper’s lives.  Remember, in our rush to create the next bright shiny object in mobile design, true success depends entirely on providing functional utility to shoppers.  Adopting disruptive strategies and deconstructing conventional design wisdom to rebuild an offering that takes advantage of the power of the medium is essential for mobile design to become more functional.

 

Author: Scott Forshay

Copy-editor: Gina Conforti

Photo credits: CW Hanley