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Mobile Design Strategies, in Podcast Form

The next Breaking Development conference gets underway next week in Orlando, but you don’t need to travel to the most magical place on Earth to get access to some of the top minds on mobile. Audio of the great talks from the Breaking Development in Nashville last year are now available for your listening pleasure (and education) on Huffduffer. You can download individual talks as MP3s or grab the iTunes feed to get all of them as a podcast. Breaking Development is a great resource on mobile design, development, and marketing so it is definitely worth listening to every single one of these.

Link: bdconf on Huffduffer

Measuring Android Version Fragmentation

android-fragmentationandroid-fragmentation
Comparing Android version market share and adoption rates over time.

Android fragmentation is a dirty little buzzword you’ve likely heard everywhere from Angry Birds to Steve Jobs and probably in strategy meetings with us here at MarketNet about that big app idea your company has.

Just what exactly is fragmentation and how big of a problem is it for Android and your project? Chris Sauve at pxldot has done a great job summarizing and charting the issue on his blog post Android Measuring Stick.

One of the best things about Google’s Android operating system is that it’s open source and available for other developers and device manufacturers to pretty much do whatever they’d like with it. That means we can get cool things like fitness accessories and Fossil watches powered by Android, but it also means that there’s no one true version of Android out there that to develop for.

Right now there are three versions of Android still out there in numbers large enough to require support, and that’s ignoring the brand new Android 4.0 (also called Ice Cream Sandwich) that was released in November and is currently running on about 1% of Android devices. It’s easy to predict that in just a month or two there will be four versions of Android out there, each with huge numbers of users. Even if version 2.1 (Eclair) is “only” at a 7.6% share, with the number of total Android devices out there numbering in the hundreds of millions that is a lot of potential customers you could be turning away if your site or app doesn’t work with that version. Add in the diversity of screen sizes available and you’re starting to understand what a difficult and important issue market fragmentation can be for a mobile project.

Mobile Users Don’t Do That

There are many common misconceptions about mobile web and app design. The most pervasive of these usually center around assumptions about where, when, and how people use mobile devices. Making any assumptions about what your visitors will or won’t do just because they’re on a mobile device will have you headed down the wrong path.

“Mobile users won’t want to do that, they’re ‘on the go’ and will be in a hurry or want a quick distraction.”

Mobile user experience expert Stephanie Rieger has written a great blog post busting some of those myths about the “typical” mobile user. People don’t just use their smartphones while on the go. They use them throughout their daily lives. They use them in quick bursts and for long stretches of engaged reading. They use them while distracted by the TV, traffic, the kids, or by nothing at all. Assuming your mobile visitors will always want to do less on your site just because of the device they’re using is a huge (and common) mistake.

Of course a good number of users will be looking to get in and back out accomplishing their task as quickly as possible. Your mobile experience (and your desktop site too by the way) should feature these common tasks and make them as easy as possible to use. But that doesn’t mean you should remove content or features that some of your best users are interested in.

As Stephanie puts it in her article, if a user is willing to suffer through a complex or broken feature on their tiny screen they’re either desperate or one of your power users. Two groups that have higher conversion rates than most. Don’t prevent them from doing what they want to do by removing the complicated feature from your mobile site, make it easier to accomplish.

Google Chrome Coming to Android Devices*

Google Chrome is finally coming to Android phones and tablets. A beta is available for download now if you’re one of the lucky few already running Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich (hence the asterisk* in the post title.) No word on when (or if) Chrome will come to other Android versions or become the operating system’s default browser.

In general the user interface looks very intuitive and clean, particularly the tab view and tab switching functionality. Chrome for Android will also reportedly bring improved performance and better rendering of pages. Plus if you’re signed in with a Google account you can sync things like tabs and bookmarks across devices (phone, tablet, and desktop.)

Get more information and some hands-on impressions over at The Verge.

Update: Chrome for Android won’t support Flash. From Adobe, “Adobe is no longer developing Flash Player for mobile browsers, and thus Chrome for Android Beta does not support Flash content.”

Our Favorite Web Design Trends of 2011

Last year was yet another huge one on the Web as things continued to move forward at a breakneck pace. The explosive growth of traffic from mobile devices influenced everything and meant huge advances in both technology and new ideas. Here are some of our favorite trends of 2011:

Responsive Design Goes Big Time

boston-globe-responsiveboston-globe-responsiveA responsive website uses fluid layouts, flexible images, and media queries to deliver an experience adapted for whatever width browser or device is being used. With the increasing number of mobile and desktop resolutions that must be accounted for, true responsive design solutions use CSS and media queries to flex to handle any width and adjusted layouts for popular breakpoints.

Coined by Ethan Marcotte back in 2010, responsive web design went all the way from unproven concept to misused buzzword in 2011. When the responsively redesigned BostonGlobe.com launched in September it signified loud and clear that responsive design wasn’t just for designer portfolio sites anymore. Responsive concepts can and should be considered for any new site developed in 2012.

Learn more: Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How To Use It, Responsive Web Design: The Book

@font-face Brings Beautiful Type to the Web

typekittypekitWeb typography has been something designers have been forced to struggle with from the earliest days of the Web. As a developer, reminding the design team that they need to choose a web safe font and their options are still just “Arial or Verdana” always results in dropped heads. No more. The ability to embed nearly any font you want using @font-face puts all the power and creativity back into the designer’s hands. Add to it CSS3 properties such as text-shadow and tools such as Lettering.js and FitText, and suddenly the Web is a more beautiful place.

A technology that was around long before 2011, embedding web fonts using @font-face exploded last year and saw some major advances as more type foundries licensed their fonts for web embedding. With more quality fonts available (and many available for free), most projects that MarketNet works on now end up including embedded fonts for headings or navigation elements.

Also in 2011, Typekit, an innovator and leader in hosted web fonts, was acquired by Adobe. The acquisition signifies broad support for @font-face and should mean the inclusion of Typekit capabilities in future releases of Adobe’s Creative Suite tools.

Learn more: Modern Techniques for Web Typography, The Essential Guide to @font-face, @font-face face off

Constant (and Automatic) Browser Updates

firefox-updatefirefox-updateInternet Explorer 6 was released over 10 years ago and it’s lack of capabilities and bugs could still end up restricting a web project in 2011. Crazy, right? Fortunately a similar issue shouldn’t be able to occur again. Web browsers are finally updating as quickly as web technology and ideas are, and more importantly they’re doing it automatically without needing users to be savvy enough to know that they need to update their computers.

Google Chrome has been pushing out autoupdates for a while now (and still does it the best), but in 2011 the teams behind both Firefox and Internet Explorer announced they would be doing the same. Now on an aggressive six-week release cycle, Firefox went from version 4.0 to version 9.01 between April and the end of the year. In December, joyous noises were heard from developers across the globe as Microsoft joined the party with the news that Internet Explorer all the way back to Windows XP would now autoupgrade to the latest available version.

Learn more: Mozilla’s Right: Bring on the Browser Updates, IE to Start Automatic Upgrades across Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7

What Will Be the Trends of 2012?

What new tech will be out in 2012? Will Google TV or the rumored new Apple TV set make an impact? How will Android Ice Cream Sandwich influence mobile design? Mobile will continue to grow and will influence many companies to target mobile first when launching new projects.

2012 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a new year and that means it’s time to reflect on 2011 and set resolutions for 2012.

Here at MarketNet, the resolutions we’re focused on for the new year are 1280×800, 1366×768, 1280×1024, 480×320, 320×480, and good old 1024×768. Oh and also 1440×900, 1920×1080, 1680×1050, 800×600, 2560×1440, and 480×360. And 320×240. Those are just some of the hundreds of different screen resolutions of visitors to this blog. In the top 10 alone the widths range from 320 to 2,560 pixels.

Still think your 995 pixel wide site is the best experience for every visitor? How well does your primary messaging come across when viewed zoomed all the way out on a mobile phone? And what kind of new experiences could you be delivering to people taking advantage of a beautiful 27″ high-res monitor?

Continue reading → 2012 New Year’s Resolutions

More Consumers Use Mobile Internet Daily than Fixed-Line Internet

The phenomenal growth of mobile Internet usage continues.

Based on the recently released MEF Global Consumer Survey of over 8,000 consumers in nine countries (including the US), more people now access the mobile Internet on a daily basis than do fixed-line Internet. This was true of each market in the survey.

Other numbers that immediately stand out from the report are that 72% of survey respondents use the mobile Internet daily and an amazing 18% no longer access the Internet using a land line at all. Product research for both online and offline shopping was a huge driver of mobile usage.

Is your company still neglecting mobile? Then you are also neglecting a good (and rapidly increasing) portion of your visitors. Talk to MarketNet about what your company’s mobile strategy should be and we’ll make sure you’re not just meeting but exceeding your customers’ mobile expectations.

Amazon Announces New Kindles, New Cloud-Accelerated Web Browser

amazon-kindle-fireamazon-kindle-fireSome huge technology announcements from Amazon today as they introduced three new Kindle devices, a new $79 Kindle, the Kindle Touch, and the Android powered Kindle Fire tablet. As a web agency, the most interesting device is the new 7″ tablet. So far the iPad has largely been the only tablet to capture enough market and mindshare that it is even considered during the design and development of new web sites. With the Kindle Fire’s low price ($199) and Amazon’s ability to slap it front and center everyday on the homepage, the tablet has a strong chance to make a significant impact.

Equally interesting is the announcement that the Kindle Fire will feature a cloud-accelerated web browser called Silk that splits the work of fetching and rendering web sites between the device and Amazon’s cloud services. The browser promises to speed web browsing by reducing DNS requests, caching site data on Amazon Web Services cloud, optimizing site files such as images, and prefetching webpages based on aggregate browsing data.

Continue reading → Amazon Announces New Kindles, New Cloud-Accelerated Web Browser