Mobile Web influencer interview – C Enrique Ortiz

Following Dan Appelquist’s interview, I am very pleased to present the next Mobile Web Influencer interview – Good friend and industry guru C Enrique Ortiz

Even in this brief interview, I really like the way in which Enrique defines webapps in terms of design philosophy!


1) What do you think is the biggest reason you are optimistic about the mobile web?
The adoption of the WebKit browser-technology ( across mobile device vendors is one of the main reasons I am optimistic about the mobile web. Having the major vendors focus on a single, advanced, browser baseline implementation translates to consistency across such devices, which directly benefits developers who can now focus on creating great design, apps, and content vs. dealing with inter-browser inconsistencies. The WebKit has proven to be a killer platform, which I hope is going to continue to be adopted by others, if not by all, major device and browser vendors. Again, enable developers to be able to create/write great webapps and maximize their ROI and the result is more quality mobile webapps.

2) Which web technologies are you optimistic about?
The WebKit, HTML5, HTML Canvas element, SVG, the power of JavaScript and CSS3 transforms and media queries – all are going to play a key role in the advancement of awesome mobile webapps.

Another area is what many of us have touted for years — the importance of secure access to device capabilities (using a consistent way/set of APIs) from within the browser or “web runtime” as a very important capability that is going to enhance the mobile experience. In the meantime, developers have to continue rely on Hybrid applications (native applications that wrap WebViews) as a way to offer the best of both worlds.

Last but not least, another area I am optimistic about are the new mobile web developer tool-kits such a jQuery Mobile, Sencha, PhoneGap and others, that are playing a very important role by helping developers in the creation of great mobile webapps across browsers.

3) Who, in your view, is a thought leader for the mobile web?
There are a number of great leaders in this space. Some are “old-timers” from the days of WAP (circa 2000), and who have seen the whole evolution to today. These are folks who lead by example and are awesome; James Pearce, Jason Grigsby, Brian Fling, Bryan Rieger and Mike Rowehl to mention a few. Then there are Evangelists such as Dan Appelquist and Ajit Jaokar, also to mention a few. More recently, folks like Luke Wroblewski, and traditional Web designers (what I call the new generation) are now embracing mobile webapps and bringing a lot of value by leading and educating others.

4) What does the mobile web lack and how is that gap being bridged?
The two major technology gaps today are lack of consistent browser technology across devices (from iPhone to Microsoft) and complete and consistent access to device capabilities.

5) Which areas/domains will the mobile web extend to in the near future?
I see the inclusion (and standardization) of the Augmented Reality (AR) technology within the standard browser, as a new domain for mobile web. This is enabling the browsers to support this new kind of (very exciting) application interactions natively. This means standardizing how to define and publish the AR resources, discover and consume such AR resources, render such AR resources, and how the user interacts with such AR entities, all browser-based, all cross-browsers. The AR space then becomes mainly a content-space vs. technology-driven as today.

6) What is the biggest gap/concern for developers (w.r.t. mobile web)
In my opinion, the biggest gap today for mobile web developers is around design philosophies for mobile webapps.  For example: many traditional web designers and developers are now embracing mobile, but are focusing on specific platforms (typically iPhone and Android) and bringing traditional web into mobile. But mobile is special, not only at the platform-level, but on the user experience, and it requires special attention.

7) Can you expand on this mobile webapp design gap?
While it has greatly improved over the recent years, there are many issues to address such as how to handle the different handset characteristics, screen sizes, orientation, browser support, and how to create a mobile webapp that works (adapts) properly. Many developers today are focusing their apps on the iPhone and Android, but as many of the thought leaders I mentioned above will say, that is not proper; a proper design will address and should work across most if not all mobile devices. For this, mobile web designers and developers must familiarise themselves with design concepts that include device-detection, device adaptation either server-based or client-based, and graceful degradation (or progressive enhancement). The goal is for the less-capable devices to degrade nicely into more basic behaviors and features while at the same time, allowing for the most advanced devices and browsers to provide the maximum experience possible by maximizing the capabilities of HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

Note my use of the word mobile webapp in contrast to mobile websites. That is another important design philosophy, as a mobile webapp is not the same as a mobile website, yet for many, both developers and customers, mobile web still translates to mobile websites. Due to the characteristics of the mobile handset, specific application-flows (vs. websites) are more appropriate for the mobile user experience; such specific flows are what I refer to as mobile webapps. These are well-defined, very focus and mobile-specific/enhanced application flows. These mobile webapps are standalone, or part of a larger set, and can be pushed or discovered independently.

About C. Enrique Ortiz