FotB2010 Adobe Agency Debate: Is the web dead?

While I was at Flash on the Beach this year I had the opportunity to moderate the Adobe agency debate, which was around the topic of “Is the web dead?”. This was inspired by the Wired article “The Web is dead” written by Chris Anderson in issue 18.02 (you can read a reprise version here). The general crux of the Wired article was that people no longer retrieve the majority of information online through web browsing, but are instead turning to ‘apps’ that allow for a richer, more focused, and somewhat bite-sized approach to the data that they actually want.

Mobile apps are currently delivering high levels of usability / simplicity, partly because many websites are not optimised for mobile

(Lee Brimelow, panelist, Adobe Agency Debate)

With the advent of smartphone and tablet devices, the concept and adoption of the app as a digestible medium has become commonplace for most users – who uses the Twitter website on their iOS or Android device; after all, there’s ‘an app for that’. However, when it comes to digital agencies and providing value for their clients – be that from an economic, customer reach or a brand awareness perspective – does an app truly hit the spot or has it evolved solely because so few companies have a device optimised site able to distill down their common user requirements.

Web is still the most likely first port of call for engaging a new organisation, which means organisations need to continue to invest in mobile web not just apps, if users like the content / services on the website then they will download the app

(Audience, Adobe Agency Debate)

A Nielson study in the US found that 14% of US mobile subscribers had downloaded an app in the last 30 days. The most popular categories being games, news & weather, maps, music and social networking. Zokem (a mobile analytics company from Finland) noted that data traffic was split evenly between mobile web and native apps, however, mobile web had a slightly higher data usage time compared to native apps (54% vs 46%).

End-users have bought into apps as making the web simple and manageable, to a point where agencies are designing mobile websites to look like apps

(Dave Bedwood, panelist Adobe Agency Debate)

Interestingly, John Lewis are launching a mobile version of their site, not an app, on Monday 11th of October 2010. The reason for this – they want to see how their customers use the mobile site before deciding on whether or not they need an app. So perhaps the death of browsing has been over hyped and companies are now looking to leverage existing web technologies to provide a richer, more tailored experience for the mobile and device based on customers, rather than just immediately jumping to an app?

Beware the app trap, your apps are ultimately controlled by the owner of the platform they’re on

(Richard Leggett, panelist Adobe Agency Debate)

So with the scene set, sit back, relax and watch the highlights from the Flash on the Beach 2010 Adobe Agency Debate…

Mike Jones