I’ve recently read this amazing post James Gardner wrote for Smashing Magazine. On the article Designing For The Future Web, James explains in great detail why in the future we must design having in mind that our readers will connect to our website on various places, with various devices of different screen sizes. This is a magnificent article and I advise everyone to read it, add it as a favorite and Instapaper it.
I tend to agree with almost everything James writes on his article except for the apps last bit. I’ve written James an email stating this and he was kind enough to answer me. Thanks James!
On his reply he states that he believes applications will be a niche like Flash or Silverlight. This vision was already on his article when James wrote that “… if we want to create something with more permanence, that can evolve at a speed that suits us and our clients, then we need to look away from mobile apps and towards the mobile Web.”
This is where I tend to disagree on his point of view. I don’t think that the web as we know and understand it right now will vanish, but I believe applications (being platform-specific) will be a huge part of the way users will surf the web in the future and relate with our costumers brands. Applications don’t have to be closed, just because they are developed for a specific platform. Look at the Zite app (that I use a lot!), from it I can share links on my Facebook, my Twitter, email the links and save them onto my Instapaper. Not bad for a close iOS app.
The problem with closed content, that we are witnessing right now, has nothing to do with it being ‘inside’ an app. The problem is that both on the Internet and on some apps, content is being shared without real profit for the producers of it. The previous mentioned app Zite has felt its’ share of discontent from publishers.
What is keeping content closed inside most publishers applications is the publishers themselves. And really, who can blame them? The Internet ‘move’ by publishers, where traditionally paid content was given for free under the premise that advertising would pay for it, was a really bad one. Applications and dedicated, easy stores, present a new digital opportunity to make business where the publishers where failing to do so.
I believe that publishers cannot live without social media. Either because Facebook and the likes represent a huge share of incoming visitors, through shared links; but also (and most important?) because digital users/readers expect this from digital publications. The one million dollars answer will be, how to allow social media sharing and get paid from content. What the New York Times has done with its’ paywall and the way it allows for social media sharing might work for the newspaper but I have doubts it will work for everybody.
To complete full circle, I think that what James advises on his article is 100% helpful for anyone planning on investing on their online/digital brand. My take would be to develop ‘almost’ everything based on web open standards and then develop dedicated, specific applications for the devices your clients are using out there.