Mobility Is as Much an Enterprise as a Consumer Revolution

Contributor: Robbie Westacott
Posted: 12/05/2013
Mobility Is as Much an Enterprise as a Consumer Revolution

Yankee Group's Mobile and Connected Devices Forecast, October 2013, shows the staggering pace at which mobility is growing: There are already more than 195 million smartphones in use in the U.S., and that number is expected to grow to more than 250 million by 2017. This has brought unprecedented device fragmentation and application complexity to the enterprise worsened by legacy technologies making it very difficult to establish effective internal workflows across developers, collateral and content owners, IT, operations and strategy teams. Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst at the Yankee Group explains.

RWD and RESS Emerge To Address Mobile Fragmentation Challenges

Since 2010, a family of responsive approaches to mobilization, including responsive Web design (RWD) and responsive design with server-side components (RESS) has emerged in an attempt to optimize mobile experiences across different device sizes, leveraging existing enterprise Web site assets and digital content.

RWD kicked it off, emerging in 2010 as a way to use Web technologies including CSS, HTML and Javascript to detect (through media queries) a device's metadata and automatically rescale individual Web sites to fit its particular screen real estate. RWD is seen as delivering better brand consistency, easier maintenance and allows a greater strategic focus around a brand's content. However while RWD offers many benefits, there are also drawbacks. By definition it requires a complete rewrite of the front end of a Web site. For simple sites, this may not be a big issue, but for more complex sites (e.g., transactional), it can be an expensive and resource-intensive approach.

Beginning in 2012, the underlying principles of RWD were evolved to include server-side components, commonly understood under the umbrella of RESS approaches. RESS utilizes a server sitting between the device and the Web site to send simpler, device-specific Web code bases as the device browser hits the site, improving performance and maintenance. While it improves performance, it may still require additional backend coding, and possibly a frontend rewrite. Nevertheless both RWD and RESS show strong promise in better enabling omni-channel user engagement.

The Responsive Ecosystem Grows

With responsive approaches gaining momentum over the past few years, existing and newly emerging platforms and open-source toolkits are growing the ecosystem around Responsive development. Below are some of the main players:

Independent vendors providing their own proprietary Responsive platforms:

  • Moovweb is a San Francisco, California-based company with a product it calls a "Responsive Delivery" platform, which it pitches as the enterprise counterpart to RWD and RESS.
  • Trilibis is a San Mateo, California-based mobile solutions provider with a Responsive server-side product called SNOW for front-end designers and developers to create device-aware websites without having to write separate code for device detection or classification.
  • WhateverWeb is part of Mobiletech, a Washington DC-based provider of mobile software and services.

With RWD as a basis it provides a range of cloud-based APIs and services to help companies transition from creating desktop online experiences to device-agnostic web solutions.

Open-source front-end toolkits for client-processed RWD sites that can be used in conjunction with device repositories and server-side platforms:

  • Bootstrap was created by Twitter developers in order to standardize the usage of front-end library conventions; now a highly popular open-source front-end framework for creating web applications in RWD.
  • Much like Bootstrap, Foundation is an open-source framework providing a similar range of capabilities for Responsive sites, built by Zurb, a product design company based in Campbell, California.
  • Intention.js was created by Dow Jones as an open-source toolkit leveraging Responsive methods to restructure HTML.
  • jQuery Mobile is a platform independent Javascript library and framework based on the jQuery foundation. Whereas Bootstrap and Foundation for example might be utilized to create omni-channel responsive websites, jQuery Mobile is typically used to create touch-optimized mobile versions of existing websites.

Platform-independent device and browser detection libraries that can be used in conjunction with some of the above toolkit and platform technologies:

  • Wireless Universal Resource File (WURFL): Founded back in 2002 WURFL is an open-source global Device Description Repository (DDR) created to help developers deal with growing device fragmentation.
  • DeviceAtlas was launched in 2008 and much like WURFL is an open-source repository of device profiles.
  • Modernizer is a Javascript library which detects whether specific HTML/CSS features have been implemented in a browser allowing developers to identify web features to leverage in the rendering of the application.

Responsive Approaches: Where Now?

Ultimately, responsive methodologies must evolve to meet enterprises' rapidly expanding mobile requirements. RWD and RESS need to progress to allow companies to customize their strategies for individual devices without bloating their code bases. In essence they need to provide companies with a way of leveraging existing Web site front ends, business logic, features and content into mobile-specific experiences. In doing so they would speed time to deployment, side-step the need to rewrite the existing Web site, and protect existing investments by allowing companies to leverage these assets and their existing Web stack. Organizations would still need to invest in front-end scripting languages or Javascript programming, but by re-using existing resources companies can begin to lift their mobile innovation above individual application projects that require significant custom coding to a business-wide estate of internal and external mobile processes.

Written by Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, The Yankee Group.

Categories: The Yankee Group, Chris Marsh, RWD, RESS, CSS, HTML, Wireless Universal Resource File (WURFL)

Thank you, for your interest in Mobility Is as Much an Enterprise as a Consumer Revolution.
Contributor: Robbie Westacott

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