Saturday, March 5, 2011

Web Experience Management in the Mobile Era

I had the opportunity to participate in an interesting conversation during a customer visit a few days ago that I think deserves a blog post. The customer - a company in the consumer packaged goods market - is facing an interesting challenge. They have today approximately three dozen web properties and each one of them is being translated into dozens of languages. If you do the math, that makes over 400 sites. This is already a pretty complex scenario that requires a web content management solution.

However, that this is only the beginning of the problem. So far, all the web properties have been designed for the desktop browser which is really easy. Desktop browsers are all the same when it comes down to user experience. However, the company is already gearing up for the mobile era. In fact, they told us they expect that the desktop will be relegated to a niche and that the mobile device will take over. They expect that the mobile device will become the primary user experience.

But this is where the problem lies. Mobile devices are by far not as homogeneous as desktops today. In fact, they may need to support at least six mobile operating systems - Apple iOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, RIM PlayBook, Microsoft Windows Phone 7, and HP webOS. Each of the mobile operating systems has its own quirks and limitations - i.e. some support Flash and others don’t.

On top of that, each device has a different form factor and screen resolution. For example, the iPad is bigger than the iPhone, though both use the iOS operating system. The iPhone ‘retina’ display can handle a higher image quality than a similar device using Google Android even though both screens have the same size.

This multitude of operating systems and form factors leads to an explosion of different permutations in user experience - there are literally hundreds of them. And dealing with them is the job of the web content management (WCM) system.

The WCM system is able to identify the device and deliver the right content in the right template. That means that each content asset has to be readily available in a multitude of formats and resolutions. In addition, all images need to be re-sized, re-formatted and adjusted for the target devices. Video has to be converted and re-sized as well.That’s the job of a digital asset management (DAM) solution. These are the cornerstones of proper web experience management in the mobile era.

The key is not to cut any corners. The customer’s goal was the best possible user experience and they understand that the right user experience requires the right content in the right format and form factor. But they also understand that performance is an essential part of user experience and delivering content with the highest possible speed means to deliver it in the optimal resolution.

Mobility is the new frontier for web experience management. Mobility adds a tremendous reach. Just think about all those countries that never had the opportunity to deploy a desktop based infrastructure and that are now going directly to mobile web. But to do mobility right, user experience has to be a priority. And with the multitude of sites, languages and devices, that could be a daunting task without the right tools.

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