UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Institutional Strategies for the Mobile Web

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 June 2011

Time Spent On Mobile Apps Has Surpassed Web Browsing

An article in the Guardian technology blog informs readers that “App usage outstripping desktop and mobile web says Flurry” which contains the summary:  “Mobile analytics firm claims its data shows people are spending 81 minutes a day using apps“.

An article published in TechCrunch headlined “Flurry: Time Spent On Mobile Apps Has Surpassed Web Browsing” provides further commentary on this story which is based on a report published in the US on Monday 20 June:

Mobile app analytics firm Flurry is releasing a new report today comparing the daily engagement of smartphone users on mobile apps vs. web browsing on the PC. For web analytics, Flurry used data from comScore and Alexa and for mobile application usage, the startup used its own analytics, which now counts 500 million aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications. Flurry says that this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity. While this is an imperfect methodology, it does point to the rise of mobile apps in our lives.

Although this story is based on evidence gathered in the US, and the report highlights the growth in usage in areas such as gaming and social networking there is, I feel, a need to reflect on the implications on growth of mobile usage on the approaches taken to the provision of online services within the higher education sector.

Implications for Institutions

Mark Power recently published a Mobile Web Apps briefing paper (PDF format) which he described on the CETIS blog. Some of the top tips taken from the paper will be published shortly in the JISC inform publication (issue 31), including the advice that:

  • There is no such thing as the Mobile Web. Design for the usual Internet and then make your site adaptable for mobile devices for example decreasing the screen size  using CSS media queries and then scaling up for larger devices like tablets and PCs by progressively enhancing access for larger audiences.
  • Start using HTML5.  No more pondering on whether it’s ready or not – it is and is already supported by modern mobile browsers. If incorporating media, you can be looking to use the <video> & <audio> elements supported by native browser instead of Flash.

Such advice on the importance of open native Web standards reflects the position being taken by the W3C who are promoting the Open Web Platform as a collection of Web standards which can be used to implement Web-based services which should run on all platforms.

But despite the rhetoric based around the benefits of developing a service or an application once using open standards so that it can run across multiple platforms without the expense of having to port to other platforms, as discussed above, the evidence suggests that end users seem to prefer dedicated apps on mobile platforms.

From a personal perspective I am aware that on my iPod Touch I am using a number of dedicated apps which will may only be available for Apple’s iOS operating system.  run  For example I have recently discussed the Smartr personalised Twitter content aggregation tool which I now use on a daily basis and I also use Blipfoto to publish photographs from my iPod Touch which, again, seems to be only available for Apple mobile devices.

Institutional Plans For Mobile Access

Are institutions seeking to develop services based on use of Open Web Platform standards or are dedicated apps felt to provide more immediate benefits?  Are particular Mobile Web development environments being used or are CMSes, VLEs, etc. being used which provide mobile-friendly outputs? And is their a demand for an event which will enable policy issues and/or technical issues related to the provision of Mobile Web services across the sector?

In order to provide answers to these questions a survey on “Institutional Use of the Mobile Web” has been set up by staff at UKOLN and CETIS, the JISC-funded Innovation Support Centres> The survey aims to identify institutional plans for exploiting the Mobile Web to deliver institutional services. The findings will be published at the end of July so we would encourage those involved in the planning or provision of mobile services to complete the survey with details or your plans – or, indeed, the mobile services you may be currently providing.

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4 Responses to “Institutional Strategies for the Mobile Web”

  1. Mark Stubbs posted some interesting data recently on the JISC W2W blog on ‘Responses from 100 device-led student interviews’ http://lrt.mmu.ac.uk/w2c/2011/06/11/responses-from-100-device-led-student-interviews/. Its a small survey and the respondent demographic isn’t clear but it’s interesting that email is still a dominant mobile use (3rd behind texts and calls). Mark also posted last year on the growth in Blackberry http://lrt.mmu.ac.uk/w2c/2010/12/07/growth-of-blackberry/ devices used by teens and I wonder if Blackberry’s and in particular Blackberry Messenger is having an influence here (the Guardian article you link to also references that “teenagers have become hooked on its BlackBerry Messenger application, which lets them chat online without using up text or voice time because it runs on RIM’s servers”.

    One final piece I would like to chuck in the mix comes from the EventGenie blog which highlights that ‘Smartphone use isn’t necessarily app use’ http://www.eventgenie.com/smartphone-use-isn%e2%80%99t-necessarily-app-use/ in which they say:

    “BlackBerry retains a major slice of smartphone ownership (27% in the US- against 28% iPhone and 27% Android), and thanks to BlackBerry Messenger, have a good footprint with the young, supposedly app-savvy demographics. Apps will work on a good proportion of them (at least ours do), but many Blackberry owners don’t know, or care, that their device can run them.”

    So if I was taking strategic decisions about mobile app development I’d be looking at web apps, because it’s unlikely I would be able to afford to develop for 3 different platforms

    Martin

  2. [...] Kelly has written a recent blog post on Institutional Strategies for the Mobile Web which highlights a survey on Institutional Use of the Mobile Web being carried out by UKOLN and [...]

  3. [...] I made the comment that the whole mobile web vs. native debate was fascinating and current and that mobile web was losing. But everyone seemed to agree that apps are a pretty bad deal for developers and that making any [...]

  4. [...] will be used to deliver mobile web services.  UKOLN and CETIS recently carried out a survey on Institutional Use of the Mobile Web. Although we are still working on our report on the survey the  findings for the initial question [...]

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