Villing & Company

The App-ification of the Web

Mobile devices have had a major impact on traditional computers. As mobile growth accelerates, traditional desktops and laptops are being forced to evolve. It's already obvious when you step into a Best Buy that many modern laptops (and even desktops) are taking their cues from their mobile competition. Acer, the fourth largest PC manufacturer expects up to 80% of its products will have touchscreens by next year or the year after.

This environment has blurred the lines between apps and websites. Ask anyone who uses a tablet or smartphone, and many of them will tell you they prefer the simplicity and utility of their native apps over the corresponding website. As a general rule, apps feel more responsive and streamlined than websites. This is largely because these apps were built from the ground up with modern touchscreen devices in mind. Websites, on the other hand, were built for the mouse and keyboard. When browsed without them, the user experience is less than ideal.

The future is clear at this point: touch will become the primary method of consumer web browsing within a few years. Future websites will have to work with touch just as seamlessly as with a keyboard and mouse. That's why it's a big mistake to design your next website using the design principles that targeted the mouse and keyboard. Instead, it should pull heavily from the principles popular in mobile applications.

Recently, we launched a site for The South Bend Clinic, which was heavily influenced by mobile app design. We're currently using a hybrid approach: app-like functionality on many of the main areas with more traditional pages deeper in. Our main focus was to make the site usable on a wide range of screen sizes and devices, with or without touch. We also tried to greatly speed up the process of finding doctors, locations and services by creating useful filters, rather than requiring multiple pages of navigation. As a result, the process of finding a doctor, service or location feels much snappier—more like the experience of using an app.

We're in the early days of this transition and things are changing very quickly. However, when thinking through the development of your next website, it might be better to look at your favorite mobile applications for inspiration, rather than your favorite websites. Then, build your website with those ideas in mind.

Filed Under: web

Villing & Company

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