Progressing the Mobile Web Forward

Long gone are the days of us trying to “figure out” the mobile web…it’s here, and it’s been here for a while — we know this. I mean, everyone and their kid has a smartphone now and even a few lucky people have smart devices, whether it’s a watch, grill, car, glasses, fridge…whatever. It’s so common I won’t even waste time posting another graph about how many people use the mobile web over the desktop…I mean, you might as well ask DC to make another Batman movie that includes the origin story of Bruce Wayne (bro, we get it…his parents were shot and killed making him an orphan, how many times do you have to remind us of that?).

Here’s the interesting part — we know that the mobile web is the present and future, yet we are still building mobile web apps like shrunken versions of what I would call the “traditional website”. Why?

Fact 1: We can mimic most all the same gestures as Native apps

Hey, welcome to 2016, it’s nice to see ya. Knowing that, it’s really interesting to me that we are not utilizing this concept more. Why are we still building “traditional websites” that have been re-organized for mobile screens? If the golden rule is “mobile first” design & development, I would think we should start building something that is a little more unique for both experiences.

Fact 2: People love successful native apps & how they function

This is really interesting to me because it incorporates both design & development theory into the mix; but what does that mean? Think about it. When people have smartphones, they download apps that are featured in the store or offered by a company they love. You live in apps on your smartphone…it’s just what you do. You have favorites and know everything about that app while understanding how to use it. Then it becomes fun and addictive. You keep returning to that app of choice to get something in return…whether it’s information, a like, gaining more trophies, or just filling that void of believing people care about what you are doing every second (don’t act like you don’t blow up your SnapChat story all day).

You see, that’s the magic sauce. If people love native apps and they are utilizing viewing the web on their devices more and more, then why aren’t we doing something with that data to help progress the mobile web even further than what we are trying to do now?

Modern Web History 101: HTML5, CSS3 (Web Browser A.D.)

Do you remember that glorious time when HTML5/CSS3 was released and smartphones were created shortly afterward? It was magical! The web was progressing forward and technology utilizing the web was moving just as fast. We had resources and talks out the wazoo about this magical period. Great books like “Responsive Web Design” (Ethan Marcotte), “Mobile First” (Luke Wroblewski), & “Content Strategy for Mobile” (Karen McGrane) came into existence to lead the charge of this new progressive movement thanks to A Book Apart.

Along with that, we had Chris Coyier to thank for CSS-Tricks and many others. Things were exciting and we made some major headway for the web. Now that era has past and our knowledge has matured — it’s really time for us to take another leap in starting a new movement. I struggle to use the term “Progressive Web App” for this movement because it’s kind of a vague term that is very quickly turning into something specifically technical.

History 102: Present & Future of the Modern Web

The fact that we have to coin a term for a proper functioning web-app just blows my mind. There should be no such thing as a “Progressive web app”, there should only be a “web app”. If you are unfamiliar with the PWA movement, check out this killer blog by one of the forefather’s of it, Alex Russell: https://infrequently.org/2015/06/progressive-apps-escaping-tabs-without-losing-our-soul/

The PGW movement is important and I’m not arguing against it, rather I’m arguing for it with the additions of a few key insights that we already know — but maybe aren’t considering.

If we are to truly keep progressing the web forward, we need to start moving to a more native-like experience for the mobile web — in both design & development. If designers approach a responsive website like they were designing a native mobile app, it would not only be more familiar with users, but they would probably love using it more. Along with that comes the use of gestures into the UX — there is no excuse at this point not to do that. Now throw in some service workers for the modern experience and you have something. Honestly, if the design/UX/development is done right — you don’t need to rely on service workers to have a great experience. But if you can use them, why not?

Outside of that, no need to worry about how the site translates to desktop — it’s a completely different device, therefore, it should have a more “traditional web app” design & experience that people are used to looking at on their computers.

Design & build the mobile web like a native app, while keeping the desktop version like a normal “website”?????

Mind-blowing, isn’t it? Why would we not do this? They are 2 completely different experiences, yet we are still trying to figure out how to make the mobile web feel like a re-organized, squished desktop version…still. It’s just not right and we can’t do that anymore. That’s like creating a product that is only targeted for the UK but is also being sold in the US without changing anything to accommodate the different cultures…because that’s what it is, isn’t it? The mobile web and desktop web have become 2 differing cultures due to the devices that we consume them on.

Taking the Leap Forward

Wow. Refreshing. Let’s stop considering the mobile web & desktop web the same and start treating them like their own individual experiences to help progress the web forward. Keep desktop what we know and are used to: “the traditional web”. Start building the mobile layouts to look and feel like a native app through design — visual, UX — gestures, development — PWA. If we unite and do this, we will naturally create another wave in the web movement like we saw back around 2011 when the “responsive web” really started making it big. For my last 3 projects I’ve used this approach and it’s been enlightening and amazing for both myself and the users. It just makes sense.

Will you join me?