Going mobile! The how and why of UVU’s mobile web initiative #heweb11

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“It’s not about making your site work on a mobile device, it is about what our users need when they are mobile”

– Utah Valley University’s web team

Why is mobile important?

At UVU, they believe that mobile is so big that it is going to fundamentally shift how they look at the web. Presenter Nathan Gerber also asserts that we shouldn’t be building just a mobile website or a mobile app. Rather, we need both. He shared some statistics that demonstrate how important a mobile strategy is for higher education.

  • In 2014, mobile use of the web is expected to surpass desktop access.
  • There were 1.37 billion mobile devices sold in 2010.
  • 80% of people will access the internet via a mobile device by 2015 (this figure is already 75% in Japan).
  • The average person checks their mobile phone 150 times per day.

Tips for success

At UVU, they didn’t have a large budget to build their mobile presence, so they had to find new ways to reuse what they had. They looked at their CMS and looked at how they could reuse the content, create mobile templates, allow for multi-format publishing, and republish RSS feeds from other systems. This way, the web team could allow departments to continue to control their content, regardless of whether it appears on the mobile site or the desktop page.

Gerber also recommends considering an entirely new approach to website construction.The UVU team is looking at developing new websites for mobile first, and then expand the sites for the desktop experience. This adaptive/responsive design approach ensures that the pages will render on any device in an attractive and pleasing way.

Cool things they are doing

UVU is doing some very cool things. They have placed QR codes on their buildings that users can scan to get more information about what is in the building, as well as a building map. They also have developed a bus app that allows users to track the exact location of buses on campus.

Takeaways

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Gerber’s team began by optimizing the current site for key content and services. His team then began developing apps that served up the key content and services

  • When you build something really cool, be sure it is always going to work
  • Build your app for the devices that are frequently used AND for the devices your administrators’ have. When you show senior leadership your app, they better be able to use it.
  • Test what you build not only on your device in the office but also out in the world — that’s how you users are going to use it.