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Make your interwebs responsive

The bane of every IA and web designer’s existence has always been creating an experience for the lowest common denominator – which usually means creating a locked or fixed web template that will render at all screen resolutions.  The problem with this is that at the lowest screen resolutions the user always gets a compromised experience and at the highest screen resolution the user always feels like the awesomeness of their screen is not being taken advantage of.  What’s the point of having a massive 24 inch monitor in 16 x 9 ratio if the website you are loading only uses a small portion of it?

To make matters even more complicated, creating experiences for the mobile web and tablet web have only increased the resolution possibilities – especially when you consider that mobile devices can be viewed in portrait or landscape.

Stating that what is “below” or “above” the fold is no longer as relevant may give you an excuse to virtually ignore vertical boundaries in your digital experience, but it does little to address the horizontal boundaries we have to consider or else live with the dreaded horizonal navigation scroll bar. Ack!

In mobile there have been two main camps on how to address this traditionally – either create a unique experience for each screen which can be time consuming and costly to both create and maintain, or completely sacrifice the intent of the original experience by “transcoding”  your desktop experience using an automated tool that will guarantee your content is at least readable – although this experience generally sucks for any site that isn’t primarily content / news driven.

With the smartphone and tablet space adding new sizes and resolutions all the time, marketers should take note of “responsive” designs that are taking off on the interwebs.  “Responsive” designs are sites that detect medium (desktop, mobile, tablet etc..) and then render the browser in such a way to provide the best experience possible in terms of navigability, readability and overall user experience.   Looking for a WordPress template recently I noticed that many of the premium templates are advertised as being responsive. Amazing!

Although I’m still an advocate for creating a web experience that is specific to the context of the medium, creating a responsive design allows you to still create context while making changes to page structure to best suit the resolution of whatever screen you are working with – including desktop sites!

One great example of responsive design on the desktop web is the starbucks site. Open to full screen then resize your browser smaller and smaller and watch how the experience changes  & responds accordingly.

if you want to geek out and see how this is done with code, check out this article with code and live examples from smashing magazine. I also found this great resource from webdesignshock.com.

A successful responsive design requires close collaboration between your experience designers and developers – but the payoff is a site that will serve the best experience possible no matter what screen your audience is on.   A better experience will always lead to better engagement and helping you reach your digital ROI goals.


February 25, 2012   3 Comments

My Nine 2012 Mobile Predictions

It’s no longer about the year of mobile.  The decade of mobile has begun and holds more promise than the interweb did in the early 2000s.

Here are 9 predictions I have for the mobile space in 2012:

  1. As I’ve been saying for years, the mobile web (thanks to HTML5) will overtake any specific App platform. It just makes too much sense to develop once and publish across all platforms – especially since you don’t lose any of the experience you would get in an App environment. Consumers are catching on that many times you actually don’t need an app for that.
  2. The mobile web will surpass traffic of the desktop web for the first time
  3. Just as QR or 2d bar codes have replaced the need to have an SMS marketing campaign for most marketers, NFC enabled phones will start replacing the need for QR codes.  First you’ll see the two of them together (like we used to see an SMS shortcode and QR code) then very quickly everything you see will be NFC enabled
  4. Brands and marketers will realize that the tablet web experience is a different context than their desktop website or mobile website and will start building out HTML5 driven experiences to take advantage of this channel
  5. All screens become mobile. It’s no longer just about the size of your smartphone or tablet, very quickly it will become about which screens (taxi cab, your car, TV etc…) you can connect to
  6. With the connection of everything to everything all the time, security and privacy will become differentiators for those who can both  make it simple to use and understand
  7. Just as the touch experience has revolutionized the way we interact with our electronics,  gesture based interfaces will start to appear and will soon replace touch.  Could this mean the return of the clapper? :)
  8. I first realized the potential of a bendable & scrollable mobile screen when I blogged about it from the Mobile World Congress in 2008.   2012 will be the year when we will first be introduced to mobile devices that either have bendable / flexible screens and / or are scrollable
  9. Social media becomes more mobile and more local

Fee free to add your own predictions or rebuff mine with your comments below. Happy New Year!



December 30, 2011   12 Comments

Mobilize all your marketing activities

At the recent CMA Mobile Marketing conference I asked to see a show of hands for all those who worked for brands or agencies that had created “mobile marketing” capabilities within their organization. I was impressed that the majority now claimed to have mobile as part of their marketing mix.  This is a significant change from even a year ago. When I followed up that question with how many have mobilized all their marketing activities, I got mostly blank stares.

It’s one thing to hire a mobile “expert” to create messaging campaigns, help you build and app or figure out your mobile web experience, but to harness the true potential of mobile, marketers need to think about mobilizing the entire marketing mix. 

Incorporate mobile to enhance and create engagement with existing print, broadcast, outdoor, PR, social, retail, training and event marketing activities. 

Remember how hard it was to convince Creative to add a URL to that print add or TV commercial a few years ago? Dust off those cognitive dissonance management skills and march back into black turtle neck row armed with your shiny new QR codes, SMS Short codes, mobile friendly URLs, app store and bluetooth logos and your quick reference sheet on mobile adoption in North America and get ready for round two.

May 13, 2011   5 Comments

Wap vs. App – Updated for 2010

One year later, Marketing Magazine invited me back to keynote their “mobile 2.0″ event last week to present an updated point of view on a marketer’s choice of Wap (or the mobile web) vs. App.

A lot has changed in a year in the mobile space and how does this impact marketers – and specifically Canadian ones? Check out the slideshare deck below for this year’s take on this ongoing debate. Also apologies for the font – slideshare replaced mine with something less readable :)

October 18, 2010   3 Comments

Updated Marketers Guide to 2D / QR Codes


It’s been nearly two years since I first published my article on decoding the mobile QR Code. It’s still a great primer and has stood the test of time so far.

What has changed?

Not a lot – except maybe  consumer awareness.  Marketers also have a lot more awareness – but still only a little bit of knowledge…. which can be dangerous to your ROI!

Here are a 6 things marketers and brands need to keep in mind as they look to integrate 2d bar codes in their OOH, Retail, POS, Print or Television campaigns:

  1. Learn the difference between a QR code and everything else. “QR” or “Quick Response” codes are the most commonly used format. Most people use “QR” as the generic term for 2d bar codes. Nearly all 2d bar code readers will read a QR code – so this is a safe format to go with. If you go with an EZ-Code (used by the National Post and other publications), you’ll need a specific reader to decode it. Given that the consumer has to download a reader to begin with, why go with a proprietary code? There are dozens of other formats that will do the exact same thing – but may require specific readers. When looking at a code – make sure you know whether or not it’s a QR code or something else before you print that poster…
  2. It’s not the reader, it’s the code. Some marketers think it’s all about the reader. There are many free readers that read most formats… but if your code is not being interpreted properly, chances are you’ve chosen a 2d code format that is not universally readable. Don’t create your own reader, borrow somebody else’s.  Quickmark and ScanLife are two great free Apps available – but do a search on your mobile phone’s App store to search for one.
  3. You need to incorporate the code where somebody will want to interact with it. If you are integrating a 2d code in a transit shelter, make sure the code is at eye level. If it’s at the consumer’s knees or way above eye-level, they will be less likely to see it and scan it.
  4. Creating a code is virtually free – don’t pay thousands for a code (and shame on marketers who charge thousands to produce them). What costs money and time is what the code does – like linking to a campaign or brand mobile website. It’s the destination that costs money. Having said that, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot.
  5. Codes can’t just go to your current online website. Your current website likely looks like crap on a mobile browser. If it’s got flash, it won’t work at all. You need a mobile specific experience. If your code is going to your facebook, linkedin,or other social media site you are probably ok as they are already mobile enabled
  6. You don’t need a smartphone to read a 2d code. Actually, all you need is a mobile device that has a camera. “flip” phones and other non-traditional smartphones have free readers too… it’s just often more difficult to download and use the reader initially.

With nearly all our clients either expressing interest or actively engaging in 2d code integrations within campaigns, my prediction is that the 2d bar code will replace the need for SMS marketing within 18 months.

If you’re excited by that prospect, just wait until flash lite makes it’s way to your mobile device so that we can start using Augmented Reality (AR) codes with our mobile browser…

March 2, 2010   6 Comments

Google vs. the App store

wap vs app

Recently I was having a healthy debate with my friend Steve Sorge over at Mobile Fringe around “Wap vs App” – or should marketers focus their efforts on building out a mobile website vs. building out a mobile application.

Since my presentation at marketing magazine’s mobile 2.0 conference, my point of view had been shifting towards Wap – or the mobile web. My reasoning being that with the mobile safari browser webkit being commonly adapted by nearly all smartphones we can now build once and deploy many times with few changes to fit each platform while outputting a very rich experience.

This is not only cost effective but ensures reach – which is key if your audience isn’t on an iphone yet.

Steve pointed out that most people with iphones would rather search or browse on the App store than on Google – a huge shift in behaviour. With over 85,000 applications and 2 billion downloads, the App store is evolving to become your life tool for anything you need. After all, isn’t there an App for everything?

I was being trumped with my own traditional point of view – user experience trumps technology every time.

Yesterday it was announced in the media that the iphone is coming to Bell and Telus next month. Having recently completed upgrades to their networks to enable GSM (which is what the iphone works on), they can now offer the iphone and compete head on with Rogers. With iphone users already driving +60% of all mobile web traffic in Canada, what will happen when you suddenly make the most popular device available to everybody else?

2010 will be the year that the iphone changes the mobile landscape in Canada.

Although Canadians have other great options in the Palm Pre and the pending new Storm from Blackberry, making the iphone available to nearly all Canadians is a game changer – for both consumers and marketers.

So… Wap or App?

I’m back to the middle. You should probably do both, but start with a mobile website – unless your target audience is already on the iphone. By this time next year, that could be everybody.

October 8, 2009   2 Comments

Mobile Wap vs. App – what is a marketer to do?

Here’s  a copy of the presentation I gave at Marketing Magazine’s Mobile 2.0 conference in Toronto. Speaker notes are included – although what actually came out of my mouth was likely a bit different :)

The fonts are also a bit off here as I used fonts local to my machine for the presentation. Enjoy & comments welcome!

June 18, 2009   20 Comments

Mobile Marketing 101 – Everything you need to know to get started

I’ve updated my standard mobile marketing 101 presentation deck to include updated stats and points of view of how the landscape is evolving and where the opportunities are for marketers to extend their multi-media campaigns into this channel.

Topics covered include: Canadian landscape stats, the 8 mobile consumer segments, SMS Marketing, Mobile Web, Mobile Applications, designing for mobile, mobile media, 2d / QR codes, Bluetooth, and a few points on what to expect next.

This is meant to be in introduction and overview – but let me know if you think I’ve missed anything you believe is really important. Feedback on content welcome too!

April 15, 2009   6 Comments

10 Mobile Predictions for 2009

Here we go again…  here are my 10 informed best guesses on what will happen in the Canadian market place this year. Click here to see how I did against last year’s predictions. 

  1. It will be the year of the App store. Every manufacturer in the smartphone space will have a mobile application store, but Apple will continue to dominate the market because they are the only ones who focus on usability first
  2. There will be several new models of the iphone announced and launched this year – including a “nano” version.  I predict that copy & paste will still not be among one of its many features
  3. Palm Pre will do better than any Android device. Friends, peers and industry pals all mocked me for predicting that they would make a come back when I published some predictions in August, but I’m sticking with this one
  4. Mobile security and privacy will become a big focus for marketers and the industry as more people use feature rich smart phones (25% of Canadians are already on them)
  5. Mobile payment systems will finally reach retail as both MasterCard and Visa should be ready to go  
  6. MMS will fail to reach its promise as the market shifts to the mobile web for richer experiences
  7. Both Bell and Telus announce GSM compatibility / network infrastructure upgrades in order to get a piece of the lucrative GSM roaming market and to counter efforts by new regional and national carriers who will be entering the marketing in Q4
  8. Microsoft will release a new OS for mobile that includes a 2d code reader that supports their own proprietary M-Tag.  This will finally bring 2d codes into the mainstream in North America
  9. All major Canadian news / content websites will have a specific mobile enabled website
  10. 40 Billion SMS messages will be sent in Canada – up from about the 20 Billion fore-casted in 2008.

What do you think? Feel free to comment /add your own predictions.

January 19, 2009   10 Comments

2008 Predictions – how did I do?

Around this time last year I made some outrageous predictions about what was to come in 2008.  Let’s take a quick look back and see how well I did: 

  1. SMS third party advertising will take off.  Didn’t really see this take off in Canada and with the mobile web / and mobile widgets taking off, I can’t see this as a big focus in 2009. Having said that, there are more services popping up that allow media planners to venture into SMS as well as the Mobile web.
  2. Mobile Web Advertising will become part of your media buy. This definitely happened in 2008 in Canada with Quattro and Yahoo offering a good mix of inventory to buy. This will only continue to grow in 2009. 
  3. MMS Common short codes will arrive. This did happen in 2008 – although not all mobile aggregators are able to facilitate this for you. MyThumb mobile was the first to offer MMS short codes and now you can also go through Magnet Mobile too. 
  4. Mobile payments will start to emerge as a new payment medium. There was a great conferences this year on the subject in Canada facilitated by the Canadian Institute.  RBC and Visa launched their pilot program for contactless payments in Canada. Visa also recently launched 4 new international pilot programs. Mastercard also announced this past May that they’re launching a pilot to extend their pay pass program to mobile. 
  5. The iphone will finally arrive in Canada. It sure did – and I was right that they waited until the 3G version came out. I also predicted that other retailers may offer the device – which didn’t happen… although both Walmart and select Sam’s Club stores will be selling them in the near future.  Best Buy and Future shop also announced that they would be carrying it. 
  6. Fixed or low-cost data plans will be universal. Although not as low as we’d like, we finally have affordable plans in Canada. Yah! I was paying $80 for 500 megs last year and now I’m paying $45 for 500 megs and includes a voice plan. 
  7. Mobile web will catch fire. I was partially right here. Thanks to smartphones like the iphone, more consumers discovered the mobile web, but more specifically mobile widgets that grab data from the mobile web have really taken off thanks to the iphone app store. 
  8. New mobile carriers will be announced. This happened and was blogged about here.
  9. Google will launch their own phone (gphone) with their own operating system and buy U.S. spectrum. The first two happened, but they decided not to aggressively pursue spectrum… this time. There are other auctions coming up in 2009…
  10. Social Networking will make the leap from desktop to Mobile as a primary interface / access point. We definitely saw a huge leap in 2008 to mobile – with facebook, linkedin, hi-5 and twitter all offering great mobile options through widgets and mobile web. Twitter saw over 600% growth and a big part of this can be attributed to mobile.  Mobile only social networking sites such as itsmy.com also saw big growth in 2008. They even partnered up with my favorite mobile and social search tool taptu to enhance their member services. 
Overall it would seem my predictions weren’t that outrageous at all!

I published a second list in August as part of a mobile insert at Strategy Magazine.  We’ll take a look at those ones in my next post before making some super crazy predictions for 2009 :)

January 7, 2009   5 Comments