In a post entitled “Preparing for a mobile-first world” Ryan Kim draws his reader’s attention to the following statistics:
“Mobile is a not just another device, but involves a new way of thinking that takes into account the power and immediacy of smartphones and tablets. Forrester nicely distills a lot of the trends and what it means for companies going forward. First, take a look at some of the facts, figures and projections laid out by Forrester:
1 billion consumers will own smartphones by 2016 with U.S. users owning 257 million smartphones and 126 million tablets. By 2016, 350 million employees will use smartphones, with 200 million of them bringing their own. Mobile spending will reach $1.3 trillion by 2016 or 35 percent of the technology economy with the app market generating $56 billion by 2015. Apple, Google and Microsoft are expected to control 91 percent of the U.S. smartphone market and 98 percent of the U.S. tablet market by 2016. Businesses are expected to double their spending on mobile projects by 2015.
Forrester says companies need to realize that mobile apps serve as a new front end for engagement systems. Apps are increasingly context aware, fed by the cloud, sensors, history and social data. That requires companies to reconsider how they deploy apps for customers, partners and employees around this enhanced form of engagement. Mobile apps from companies can’t just log data, they need to harness all the power of mobile and social to help people get specific jobs done in a particular context, connect with people and access information at the exact time they are making decisions.”
It’s that first bullet point that should make people in the church world take notice. Just as congregations are starting to understand how critical their websites are to communicating their identity to the world, websites are being by-passed by new tools. Sure a website can be read on a smart-phone, but who does? The page served up is optimized for a a 1024 pixel wide display, often uses flash (shudder) because that’s what the designer knows, and has tiny little buttons (for phone use) to get more information.
Very few congregations have started to optimize their sites for mobile. Actually very few episcopal bloggers have either. (I did about a year ago, and it’s part of what drove me to abandon type-pad for wordpress. We installed a mobile friendly version of our site at our cathedral too – which was relatively easy because of some earlier design decisions we made)
Optimizing for mobile is probably more than just adding a server-side script that serves up a mobile friendly template though. Because people (myself included) tend to use mobile apps that are purposed designed for the phone to access information. I’m much more likely to use my iPhone twitter application to read the news than I am to load the twitter mobile site. I’m more likely to use an iPhone newsreader app to follow websites than I am to open them one by one. And that’s because the user interface is just that much easier.
There are very few Episcopal churches right now that have their own phone application. We don’t. I’m not sure that’s the right place to spend money for what it’s worth. But I do think we need to be intentional about thinking through how people will use their mobile devices on a Sunday morning.
Facebook checkins? (Okay – do you have a Facebook place page?) Google+ (Do you have Google places page?) 4 Square? What about someway to let people download material to their phone once they’ve checked in? What material makes sense? What about photos? Should we be encouraging people to geo-tag?
Would it make a difference to have a mobile device aware proxy server on our guest wi-fi network? So that when you join the network for instance, you’re automatically served up a page that has info about the congregation, parking, schedules, contact info, etc – sort of like what often happens in hotels or airports?
Is there some way we can make use of the unique sensors in phones to enhance Sunday mornings? (I have no idea how, but it seems a waste not to wonder about such a thing…)
Let’s figure that smart-phone adoption rate continues a-pace. Just like we saw the adoption of email and websites and recognized that the Church needed to adapt, we probably need to do the same regarding mobile too.
Shoot me any cool ideas you have. I think this needs to be done soon.