Evolving Mobify Studio - Part 1

When we started Mobify in the winter of 2008, one thing was clear: websites sucked on mobile. The few that were optimized for mobile looked liked WAP sites that had been subtlety retagged as HTML.

With the iPhone raising the bar for mobile experiences, it wasn't enough for websites to just "work" on a phone anymore. Navigation, content and forms were expected to be laid out logically to fill screen. Content had to be built from the ground up for delivery over low bandwidth connections to slow devices.  Most importantly with the collision of the mobile and desktop webs there needed to be URL mapping between the two so that no matter how a viewer arrived on a page, they always got an experience tailored to their device.

We built Mobify Studio to enables designers to build the fantastic mobile experiences that viewers demanded. Three years later, the fundamentals behind building great mobile experience haven't changed but the mobile devices themselves have.

Smart phone traffic dominates today's mobile web. Over 80% of our network traffic could be classified as "Smart Phone". These powerful devices connect to the web using fast, reliable 3G and Wifi connections. This shift in the device landscape has caused us to re-evaluate the design decisions we made in 2008 while building out current version of Mobify Studio.

Decision made in 2008: The mobile web is not ready for JavaScript.

Mobify Studio's content optimizations alter the DOM. JavaScript is bound to specific DOM representations. Our modifications subtlety break existing JavaScript in unpredictable ways. In 2008, mobile browsers have incomplete or incorrect implementations of specifications crucial to JavaScript. With the goal of delivering sites with a minimal footprint, we can't afford to serve JavaScript content to devices only to have break. We designed Mobify Studio to strip JavaScript from pages.

Decision made in 2008: Mobile websites should live at mdot.

To receive a page optimized by Mobify Studio, a browser must make a request to Mobify's webservers. Sites made with the Studio live at a different domain than the desktop website. Using DNS CNAMEs we made it possible to deploy mobile views to an mdot like m.yoursite.com. This had the helpful side effect of sharing HTTP Cookies, allowing for simultaneous login between mobile and desktop sites. However it also created a need to redirect mobile traffic from the desktop website to the mobile view. To do that we developed three methods for handling redirection at either the webserver, application or client side level.

Smart phone dominance challenges these decisions. In the next post we'll outline how we're adjusting our core technology to build the next generation of great mobile experiences.

Mobify Studio homepage circa 2008!

3 Reasons why Email Marketing is Key for Mobile E-commerce

UPDATE: New stats from ComScore confirm that mobile email use is growing fast.

Recently we've been looking at the link between email marketing and mobile revenue. Turns out that a good email strategy quickly contributes to mobile purchases. Here are some of the early findings:


  1. Email is often checked first thing in the morning - from a mobile device.Are you guilty of typing up an urgent reply while still in bed? As smartphone adoption grows, email is increasingly accessed on the go. When receiving digest emails from their favourite fashion brands, many mobile users will click the product links, heading directly to the e-commerce site.

  2. Email often brings exclusive and time-sensitive promotions, creating a sense of urgency.Mobile shoppers are a lot more focused on purchasing a particular item. If something is on sale and limited in quantity, mobile devices will often be preferred.

  3. Mobile e-commerce greatly benefits from email awareness campaigns.Many online shoppers still have poor expectations for the mobile web. Letting the audience know about a fully transactional mobile store is key for driving traffic and repeat customers. Newsletters are a great channel for this type of promotion.

Email is crucial for driving growth in mobile e-commerce and should be included in every retailer's mobile marketing plan.

Mobile Web Is Not (Yet) Ready For Business Model Innovation

Here's Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon:

I think that we’ll continue to see more companies ... who put us [Groupon] to shame a couple years from now with their rate of growth.

According to Andrew, Groupon grew so quickly thanks to its social features. What's going to drive web hyper-growth in 2012? The mobile web - but it's not ready yet.

Consider Instagr.am, the darling of early adopters this winter. It's up to a million users, growing through Twitter and app downloads - which is awesome. However, many are lost at every stage of the acquisition funnel - clicking the AppStore link, installing, learning the native UI. What if you could start taking photos & applying filters via the mobile browser - right after clicking that very first instagr.am link? They'd probably be at 5-10 million users by now. Today, the Instagr.am website isn't even mobile-friendly.

Universal JavaScript APIs for mobile cameras are on their way (you can use PhoneGap in the meantime) - but not today, limiting growth opportunities for mobile-centric web services.

Another good example is online advertising (search or display), where every mobile click leading to a desktop page will convert at a disastrously low rate. This inhibits a lot of mobile innovation in pay-for-performance advertising - especially in e-commerce.

Mobile web has to get more mobile in order to facilitate business models of tomorrow. Let's do our part to make it happen!