Google search

Google to penalize non mobile sites

Google has just announced that starting April 21st, websites that are not mobile friendly will be penalized in mobile search results. Seems like a no-brainer, if you are using your phone to do a search, it is easier to view information and take action if the site you go to is mobile friendly.

With more than 25% of searches now being done on mobile devices (BIA/Kelsey (April 2014)), companies that have not yet created a mobile or responsive site can expect a traffic hit in the next few months.

In addition to better search placement, mobile, responsive and adaptive sites also lead to higher call percentage and from several implementations we’ve seen, a huge improvement in abandonment rates. It seems users on mobile devices that get to a site that is not mobile friendly would just rather go somewhere else.

In the blog post, Google also provides some guidelines and testing tools to check your site compliance.

Tip: not highly publicized, but Chrome browser includes a great mobile testing tool. In the Menu under “More Tools” there is an option for Developer Tools. These allow for selection of device for output and changing the HTTP header data to test using different devices.

Hidden Impact of the iPad on Your Corporate Website?

Even though the iPad appears to be a device for Apple fans, gadget freaks, tech savvy consumers, etc., it is already positioned to have a significant impact on the nature and shape of corporate websites. The adoption and growth rate of specialized content consumption devices such as Smart Phones, Tablets, and Net Books can no longer be simply ignored. B2B and especially B2C companies need to ensure that their websites not just “function” on the iPad and other similar devices but they must provide a good user experience. Just as higher bandwidths and more powerful computers once changed static websites forever the new content consumption devices are positioned to do the same again. The buzz around the iPad and its successful launch means that any future website planning and upgrades need to keep the new realities in mind.

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the iPad browsing has been lack of support for the Adobe Flash. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has termed Flash buggy, a CPU hog, and a security risk. Regardless of whether you agree with Jobs or not, recent trends in website design and development do point towards less Flash usage for various reasons. HTML 5 is being touted as the new replacement and many key companies and websites have already adopted it. Therefore any decision to use Flash or to continue supporting existing Flash applications should be weighted carefully. Many major websites like WSJ, NPR, USA Today, and NYT are doing away with Flash and taking a dual approach of providing the iPad optimized apps and rolling out new Flash-less websites.

Still common among corporate websites are the slide out menus that require constant cursor presence which makes for not so friendly experience for the finger based navigation. Touch interfaces are rapidly gaining in popularity and are no longer limited to Smart Phones and Tablets, some of the newer laptops also support them. Another implication of touch interface is that links that are too small or too close to each other make it difficult for users to click them and create a frustrating user experience. The ever shrinking size of buttons and links now needs to be reconsidered and their placement must also be rethought. Touch is here to stay and sites need to evolve to ensure they are “touch” friendly.

In the days immediately following Netscape’s collapse, Internet Explorer became the king of browsers and any corporate website needed only to be tested with 2 or 3 versions of Internet Explorer. Since then FireFox, Chrome, and Safari have gained significant market share, and any updates to the corporate website must once again be tested against a plethora of browsers. Safari has hitched a ride with the iPhone and the iPad and therefore requires special consideration in ensuring that the corporate website renders and functions well. However, browsers no longer hold a monopoly on being the sole interface to the internet content.  The rise of proprietary apps providing customized experience means now there is a challenger to the mighty browser. Major media sites like NYT, WSJ, BBC, etc. all have rolled out their iPhone and iPad apps which provide a highly controlled experience outside of the browser.  

The iPad’s larger screen provides an excellent full-page browsing experience. However, number of sites treat the iPad as a mobile client and serve up the mobile version of the web-site. In most cases user can click on the full-site link and access the standard website but that is cumbersome to the users. Websites now need to differentiate between smaller mobile clients where limited mobile version of the website makes sense and newer larger content consumption devices like the iPad where nothing but the full-site will do. Needless to say the iPad and other similar devices are creating a new reality and the corporate websites need to take notice or risk being considered old and obsolete.

Top 5 Web Technology Trends for 2009

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The Holidays are here and with them all the yearly summaries and forecasts. It may be a good idea to go back a year and check how many oracles have seen this slowdown coming..

As I look ahead to 2009, I see a few clear trends for web technology areas that are providing value in these rough economic times and are maturing to the point that companies cannot ignore anymore.

Gartner published their list of strategic technology trends for 2009 a few weeks back. They highlight Cloud Computing, Web Oriented Architecture, Enterprise Mashups and Social Software and Social Networking.

Here are 5 additional web technology trends that will be important in 2009, in no particular order:

  1. Actionable Web Analytics as part of Enterprise BI and Dashboards.
    Web Analytics in many organizations is still an orphan with no real parents. Every department looks at its data but rarely does it get a strategic priority as an indicator of business trends and business intelligence asset. Investment in web analytics allows for customer insights, marketing spend ROI, conversion optimization and can impact the bottom line. As companies invest in sophisticated BI and analytical dashboards, web based data that is not transactional is usually not there. Integrating web traffic and user interest data into these systems can result in new insights and better actionable data.
  2. Phone Browser Compatibility
    Mobile computing is booming. About 13M iPhones were sold so far, and the support for location and browser that both the Android, Blackberry and all Microsoft based smartphones are offering, the percentage of traffic to web sites coming from phones is already in the 3%-10% range and will only increase. These are not the early 00’s WAP/WML jokes but full HTML browsers. Still, these special browsers are very different from the full version used on PC’s and Laptops. Bandwidth is still a challenge and their support for Rich Applications such as Flash and Silverlight is lacking. If you have a fancy Flash based site, your users will most likely not see a thing. Companies that have ignored it so far will have to adjust their sites or redirect mobile traffic to a mirror mobile optimized site.
  3. Location based services
    Continuing from the previous point, these mobile devices have GPS included and location based applications can drastically impact the user experience. Either as an iPhone/Android application or websites, the ability to share location information and get back location specific data about local services, other people, events, sales or anything else adds a new dimension to mobile applications.
  4. Increased reliance on open source infrastructure products and technologies
    Free is always a powerful word. Strong and reliable open source environments allow companies to create a robust e-commerce infrastructure with little or no proprietary platforms. The excellent Apache OFBiz for example, provides strong open source modules for e-commerce, ERP, CRM and many others. Alfresco offers a great content management solution and multiple open source development environments are available. The case for Enterprise Open Source web environment is getting stronger every day.
  5. Approaching Social Networking and Collaboration in a Strategic way
    Everyone now realizes the power of social networks and is rushing to get in, establish a FaceBook page, a Twitter account and get’s their PR to sprawl the web to “engage” people. Internally, companies are haphazardly trying various collaboration methods. We see a maturity process happening through 2009 that will force companies to look at all their collaboration points in a strategic way and tie them to business goals and processes. This new approach will transform them from toys to tools and will establish their place and value in the new order.