The end of the mobile web

October, 2021 - Sylvain Pollet-Villard

2010: The childhood OF MOBILE WEB

  • iPad and iPhone 4G just released
  • Android market has 80,000 apps
  • Smartphones are <10% web trafic
  • Mobile OS wannabes: "Windows Mobile 7", Bada, WebOS

      Apps are cooler

     SLOW AND BORING

double the costs. Every time.

and pretend Windows Phone does not exist
 

BET ON Mobile web ?

UserS

DEVS

Web

"Mobile
Web"

"Desktop
     Web ?"

The most common strategy at the time
to split desktop and mobile users was
User Agent sniffing

 

https://adrianroselli.com/2011/10/detecting-mobile-devices.html

 

https://user-agents.net/download

but how do you decide if some device is "mobile" or not ?

GAME: Mobile or not ?

Play in the chat:
Enter "mobile" or "desktop"

APPLE IPAD 3rd gen

 13 inch touch screen

CONNECTED IN WI-FI

USED IN public transports

 

Mobile or desktop ?

low-cost netbook
 CHROME FOR ANDROID android 6.0
10,1 inch non-touch screen
CONNECTED IN 4G
USED AT HOME, ON A TABLE

Mobile or desktop ?

MICROSOFT DUO
EDGE - windows 10x
2 X 5.6 INCH touch screen
connected in 4g
USED AT WORK, AT HIS DESK

Mobile or desktop ?

nINTENDO WII U
webkit netfront

6.2 inch touch screen
CONNECTED IN WIFI

used in dual screen mode
at HOME, in the couch

Mobile or desktop ?

samsung galaxy note 10+
CHROME - ANDROID 9.0
6.3 INCH touch screen

2280 x 1080 pixels !
connected in 4g

Mobile or desktop ?

what made you decide ?

Screen size ? Screen definition ?

Inputs ? Touch screen or keyboard/mouse ?

Connectivity ? Bandwidth ? Latency ?

Device power ? Capabilities ?

Usage context, user intent ?

 

mobile is not black & white

Not even a grayscale

screen size ? bandwidth ? user focus ?

It's a multidimensional problem

What does mobile even mean ?

phone

handheld

touch  UI

moving,
changing ?

YET, decisions based on this ABSTRACT
frontier Are done every day

  • Functional specs:​
    show a different content here for mobile users
     
  • Web design:
    display a different navigation menu on mobile
     
  • Front-end dev:
    load an alternative version of a component on mobile
     
  • Client / Product owner:
    focus on tickets from mobile users

Web devs love to criticize browsers...

WRONG ASSUMPTIONS HAVE BAD CONSEQUENCES

but it's not the first time browsers fix web devs mistakes:

It didn't age well in 2021

Why do we make
these bad decisions ?

1. mobile as an excuse

 

  • for commercials, to sell more
  • for project managers, to create new tasks and extend deadlines
  • for devs, to do half of the job (I plead guilty !)

 

Bad arguments:

  • "you can't handle all devices"
    → yes, you can, with the right level of abstraction
  • "we have to make generalizations at some point"
    → unnecessary "sacrificial" decisions
  • "my client doesn't use mobile"
    →  my client is stuck with big screens because of me

2. works on my machine

the gap between dev and  user
environments and usage contexts

 

Emulating small resolutions, touch controls, bad performance with CPU and network throttling, does not replace testing with a real device

  • Address all usecases. Test without mouse. Then test without keyboard. Then test with only one hand, lying on a sofa.
     
  • Testing panels: have your app tested by your boss, your roommate, your children, your mother
     
  • Don't blame the user ! Your job is to make the website usable

3. User stories are just stories


Reasoning cognitive bias lead to a poor perception of reality:

  • Hypothesis confirmation bias :
    prefer elements which confirm rather than invalidate a hypothesis
  • Representativeness bias:
    consider one or more elements as representative of a population
  • Selective perception:
    selectively interpret information based on own experience.

 

User scenarios → are you sure about the order of the actions ? the timing ?

Mockups on Illustrator → what happens to your pixel-perfect layout if we slightly change the width, or zoom in text because user is myopic ?

This "mobile web" thing is a user story

How to fix this ?

Dealing with divertisity and complexity

"mobile web" assumptions

smartphone

at home (WiFi)

Grandpa's
computer ?

iPad in

public transport

Think in variables, not categories

(of course there are more than 3 variables:
browser support, device capabilities, usage context...)

8 categories

3 variables

Dealing with divertisity and complexity

H

CSS Media Queries have been thought this way:

Think in variables, not categories

They also tried to make device categories, but it did not work in the end:

Cut into smaller parts

Move from full-page mockups to components and graphic charter 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smaller the component is, the easier it is to adapt
to all the variables: screen size, input methods...

 

Things to ban: "mobile" mockups, fixed layouts, ideally prefilled data

cut into smaller parts

Modularize everything:  components, inputs, actions, services...​
For each part, define hypotheses, constraints and options

Example: a photo gallery component

gallery-lib.desktop.js / gallery-lib.touch.js

  • what image size to load ?
    → check screen resolution and network conditions
     
  • how will the user interact with the component ?
    → load gallery-mouse-controls module if mouseover event,
          load gallery-touch-controls module if touchstart event
     
  • what should be the loading strategy ? preload next pictures ?
    → based on first image loading time or user actions
          do not assume mobile should not preload

Think in actions, not scenarios

(Unpopular opinion: this applies to devs, QA and
product owners, from writing specs to end-to-end testing)

 

Don't presume the user :

  • will do a set of actions in a certain order
  • will not be interrupted when doing so
  • will not switch to a different device in between

Users switch often between devices and expect consistency from your website UX, data and service

(Study by Google, August 2012)

Know when to optimize VS when to adapt

 

I can try to optimize:

  • network data consumption
  • CPU usage
  • space used on screen
     

 

 

 

 

Optimizing will keep your application simple and consistent,
but can only be done up to a point before having to adapt.

Media queries are a good example of this kind of breaking point.

I need to adapt to:

  • network and device constraints
  • screens too small / too big
  • user inputs and usage context

EMBRACING ONe WEB APPROACH

 

What future for the mobile web ?

 

Step 1 : mobile web sucks

Step 2 : mobile web used to suck

Step 3: there is no mobile web, only the Web

 

I'd like to think we are already at step 2

Now I want to move to step 3

The end of the mobile web

Thanks ! Questions ? Opinions ?

The end of the mobile web

By sylvainpv

The end of the mobile web

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