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Engineering mobile content

Posted: 01 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile Web? download performance? content development? mobile application design?

Mohan: To develop content for mobile users, applications must be optimized for target customers.

There is a surge in the number of companies touting mobile Web offerings. But as more feature-rich sites and downloadable applications are offered, the issue of finite mobile bandwidth and resulting deterioration in content download performance rears its heada true catch-22.

Causes of deterioration
Mobile performance depends on a fickle delivery medium: air. Mobile signal strength varies, affected by the presence of buildings, tower boundaries and competing radio bandwidths. Data needs to be delivered to a moving target. What's more, increased demand is putting a strain on finite delivery pipelines.

Content also plays a role in jamming mobile pipelines. Users expect a rich Web experience over mobile, despite the challenges posed by the mobile network infrastructure, smaller screen form factor and multiple types of mobile devices in use.

To develop content for mobile users, applications must be optimized for target customers; but there is debate about what that means. Should the page download only a few images for speed, or are multiple images important to the user experience? Can the images be restricted to a limited number of servers to control download speed?

The team must decide how much optimization is desirable for the variety of mobile device targets and carriers available. Different devices have different requirements. In addition, the application will be sent over a variety of carriers that provide different approaches to bandwidth management.

When users send requests to download a site, the device and its carrier are identified so that servers can send content pre-optimized for the combination making the request. The trick to optimizing capacity for mobile content developers will be having intimate knowledge of how sites and applications perform under varying conditions within the complex mobile ecosystem and using that knowledge to optimize performance.

The mobile ecosystem is complex. Solitary testing is not sufficient for determining and maintaining optimum performance. If a content provider is not measuring application performance over a variety of geographies, devices and times of day, it is impossible to truly understand users' experiences. Without unlimited mobile bandwidth, mobile application design teams must test and monitor mobile applications and services to ensure that their access mechanisms are both rich and nimble when competing for end users and for bandwidth.

- Nisheeth Mohan
Product Manager
Mobile Solutions
Keynote Systems Inc.

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