Mark Zuckerberg recently mentioned that “betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native” was a mistake made by Facebook.
What does that mean for HTML5?
In a nutshell nothing. Even though Zuckerberg sites “HTML5 just wasn’t there”, you have to put it in the proper context for Facebook which is different than most Enterprise companies.
Being the pinnacle technology company, Facebook is trying to squeeze every ounce of performance from their mobile application experience. And when you have something akin to “unlimited” resources, you can make decisions that others in a different situation cannot.
Maybe this decision doesn’t mesh with Facebook’s long term vision, and maybe it was very expensive and will cause them extra development time and effort in the future. All of that doesn’t matter in the short term if they can make their users happy now. Even if you make the argument that they “didn’t do HTML5 correctly”, it doesn’t really change anything. In the end they have an app that most will agree works great and seems to be an improvement over what they had before, so in this case “the ends justify the means”.
So if you’re an Enterprise company should you follow Facebook’s lead and ditch HTML5 for native?
Unless you are totally stuck on a problem that can’t be solved by HTML5, or you are a company where fractions of a second have significant value, you should probably stick to what you are doing now. If a mobile banking customer has to wait “a tiny bit longer” to get their account balance from an HTML5 app versus native, I don’t think that is going to cause them to close their account and move to another bank with a native app.
For Facebook, the short-term benefits of their decision outweigh the possible harm, but Facebook is in a different world than the rest of us. Most companies need to balance “customer delight” with what is affordable, doable, and sustainable over the long haul. That means HTML5 will probably take most companies further down the road than some alternate strategy.
Maybe there will be a day when we see an announcement like: “Facebook switches back to HTMLx……”
Recent web traffic analysis shows that many Social Retailers are getting an enormous amount of traffic from mobile devices. In the case of LivingSocial, they’re getting more traffic from mobile than the desktop. Breaking down mobile traffic between the apps and the mobile web, the web is preferred over apps nearly two-fold. This affinity of LivingSocial users for mobile websites is in line with general mobile retail shopping preference finding revealed in a recent Keynote Mobile Study.
So it would stand to reason that LivingSocial is doing everything possible to maximize the performance of their websites on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Yet, looking at results in the Keynote Startup 3-Screen Index, their performance isn’t where you’d hope it would be. On tablets the 43.9 second average response time of their site is downright painful, faring far worse than the average startup.
But the mobile challenge LivingSocial faces is ones other companies would love to have. Their customers and prospects are actively seeking them out on mobile devices and with a few improvements, the company can quickly improve the mobile user experience. For smartphone users they’re delivering a clean, simple website designed in accordance to many mobile best practices. However with 300 KB of content it is on the heavy side. Trimming down the size of the site delivering fewer and lighter content could lead to faster downloads.
Worse yet, they make the iPad user go through a 3 step registration process that isn’t required of smartphone users. Mobile websites are important for all retailers because they’re far more discoverable than apps which require a download from an app store. Three additional steps needed to get to a home page increases the likelihood of user abandonment. Requiring upfront registration and collecting information is very common in Social Retail. But if fake information will get you to the destination, companies should weigh what’s gained in collecting junk data against the potential loss of real prospects.
Today, your customers are perusing your merchandise and buying from your mobile and Web sites using a vast array of devices, including desktop PCs, smartphones, cell phones, wireless laptops, and tablet computers from wherever they’re located, anytime.
This new “Everywhere Web” is a place where customer expectations are high, and if you want to prosper, you certainly want to ensure that your web and mobile quality always deliver for all of your customers, with no excuses. Don’t disappoint them with an online experience that is slow or that doesn’t serve them. If your sites don’t sell to them when they want to buy from you, those customers may not come back.
To win them over and drive sales, your company needs to stay on top of all the new devices that your customers are using to find you online. That means ensuring that your site performance is ready to meet the needs of all of that device diversity. Making it even more complex are new electronic devices such as tablet PCs and iPads that blur the lines between traditional desktop computing and the mobile world.
It may seem like a lot to worry about, but by following a performance monitoring strategy that keeps up with new devices and Web services accessed by these devices, you can turn this challenge into a competitive strength for your business.
The place to start is with benchmarks to establish online performance goals for all your online sites that can then be monitored, measured and improved over time. The needs of broadband and mobile users are quite different, so you should be benchmarking both types. Broadband sites include far more graphics and audio-hungry features, because there is speed to spare to deliver them. Mobile sites are usually pared down to get out just the basic information to customers, while cutting out the flashy extras due to mobile bandwidth and screen size limitations.