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Improving the Mobile Experience with HTML5

The goal for every online organization should be to create a fast, seamless, and visually appealing mobile website

It has been reported that one third of the world's top 100 websites have already adopted HTML5, a percentage we expect to grow with the ever-increasing amount of traffic coming from smartphones and tablets and, more importantly, the amount of conversions and revenue-bearing transactions coming via that channel.

With Adobe signaling the end of mobile Flash, HTML5 has quickly become the choice for companies looking to deliver a rich and interactive mobile Website or app experience.

In the end, organizations must deliver an exceptional design and exceptional performance to give the end user the experience they are expecting and that keeps them coming back for more content. Delivering performance remains a key challenge; vigilant uses of testing and monitoring solutions that support HTML5 technologies (swiping, geo-awareness, local storage) have become more critical than ever. There is a lot more consideration that should go into developing your mobile site than just cost and function. HTML5 introduces a new wave of mobile development that will allow your organization to leverage the rich capabilities of smartphones and tablets.

Considering the Benefits of HTML5 for Your Organization
The growth and evolution of HTML to HTML5 has introduced many new capabilities for web developers to optimize the mobile experience.

Online video will account for 90 percent of Internet traffic within the next few years, according to Cisco. At its core, HTML5 was developed to support online video without requiring third-party plugins. What does that mean? It means that now browsers will be able to play video without the help of additional programs (which are generally expensive), and without worrying about slow loading or crashing of the browser.

Local storage and offline applications are another large consideration. Once you download an HTML5 website, the entire webpage data is stored in the local browser database. HTML5 supports storing large amounts of data for large periods of time, and then retrieving it even when the device is offline. A recent survey shows that more than 39 percent of smartphone users use their phone to access news and information. Having this information stored locally provides users with the ability to access information while on the go without the need to have a continuous Internet connection.

Geo-location is another benefit of HTML5 development, especially on mobile. HMTL5 enables geo-location by using the GPS coordinates identified by your phone. Retail stores, movie theatres, maps, and many more types of apps can utilize this function to determine a user's location without the need to enter it manually. In this case, the browser works for you and quickly gives organizations access and the ability to cater to convenient user features such as maps, check-ins, locations and location-based advertisements. As mobile evolution continues, geo-location will be able to provide location-specific content and also help users to more quickly and easily navigate around town finding just the service they need.

Why Not Just Make Apps?
If you wanted offline browsing or user-specific content, apps allow you to tap into these areas quickly. The general reality is that apps have a better user experience and are more interactive and provide richer graphical interfaces (especially for games, videos and graphics). Everything is located in the device and the user is simply interacting with the device instead of grabbing information from far away.

However, when creating an app, searchability and discoverability is critical. Continual investment in promoting the app is needed if you want mobile users to find it. Why not deliver what they want on the website so that users need not go further?

An app-centric content delivery strategy is expensive for development. It requires multiple builds as designing apps for iOS is different than designing for Android - a different skill set is required for each. With HTML5 these same features are being translated for Web. Canvas Drawing is a feature that allows Web developers to create interactive content for their website. With the canvas tool, websites have become more interactive, faster and easier to access, creating an app-like experience for the mobile user, similar to mobile sites like LinkedIn.

HTML5 is in the browser and not device dependent and using the technology can be as easy as updating your organization's website. It is cross-platform and can easily be done by a web developer. This method means your organization doesn't have to worry about hiring an app developer (much less common than a web developer and more expensive) or building an IOS app and going through app certification (which has longer release cycles and the certification process can be burdensome).

Other Considerations for HTML5
While HTML5 lets you consolidate your development efforts, don't think that every device supports HTML5 in the same way. Understanding the variances of compatibility on mobile and tablet browsers is important. Know what to expect and take steps to be sure your results line up with expectations.

Testing and Monitoring
When designing and developing HTML5 sites you need tools that let you test functionality so that you may ensure that the app performs as expected. Unless you have a large library of devices lying around, consider cloud-based resources that let you rent mobile devices based on your testing requirements. Desktop device emulators are a relatively inexpensive way to test your site on the devices that matter most to you. They are also capable of providing detailed feedback at the code level. However, if they don't support HTML5 functionality they'll be of little use.

As HTML5 allows mobile developers to continually iterate and web infrastructure performance fluctuates, it's critical to invest in monitoring tools that give you continual insight into the performance of your site. Determine the use cases that are critical to the performance of your site and create a robust test script. Create checks to ensure that HTML5 functionality is behaving as expected, and then run that script around the clock to ensure optimal performance. Mobile web monitoring solutions are capable of alarming you under precisely preset conditions when attention is required. Unlike maintaining multiple versions of apps, your single mobile website is being shared by all of your users. When failures occur you'll be able to address them in one fell swoop.

Making the Commitment
The goal for every online organization should be to create a fast, seamless, and visually appealing mobile website. The site should be easy to use and have all of the functionality needed to meet the mobile user's expectations and needs. HTML5 helps to meet those goals by making your site more intuitive, easier to navigate and faster to load.

HTML5 gives developers new tools and presents an effective and efficient way to develop your company's mobile strategy. With HTML5 the lines between Web and app development are quickly blurring and the result is that the overall mobile user experience is improving.

Before taking the plunge, realize that employing HTML5 requires a level of commitment on many fronts to take full advantage of its many capabilities. You need a team of people who understand the benefits and limitations of HTML5, how to make them work for your mobile strategy, and how to ensure that your mobile user experience lives up to expectations. This commitment can pay great dividends in return.

More Stories By Nisheeth Mohan

Nisheeth Mohan is a Senior Product Manager, Mobile at Keynote Systems. He has a deep technology background with more than eight years of experience in mobile. In his role as Senior Product Manager at Keynote, Nisheeth is responsible for the growth and vision of Keynote's mobile strategy. His responsibilities include general management for the mobile business and he is a frequent speaker with FierceWireless. Prior to Keynote, he held product management roles in Telephia, now Nielsen Mobile, where he launched industry's first market research products for mobile media.

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