More than 58 percent of mobile devices are now smart phone or tablet based, and this year alone there will be 70 billion-plus apps installed on these devices. You may be even using one to read this article. If you haven't already started, over the next 12 months, you need to develop a mobile strategy. The plan will define how you will integrate mobile into your new courses and apps or how to supplement your training with new content, apps, and tools.
Understanding Your Audience
Is your audience a fit for mobile content or tools? You need to talk to your learners and gather information, perform surveys, and look at how they are using your training. You also can integrate free analytics tools such as Google Analytics, http://www.google.com/analytics. Using the Web or mobile app SKD provides the ability to know how many people are using your content, when, what technology they are using, which browsers, and how long they are interacting with your content during each visit.
Does it make sense to view your content and courses on mobile devices? Your decision will be based on your audience, where they will be viewing the content, and what your content comprises (text, graphics, audio, video, and activities). If you determine it is a fit, then you will want to think about how your content will be viewed on a mobile device. One of the common myths is that a learner viewing content on a mobile device will only spend one to five minutes at a time. We've found with several projects and audiences that learners are moving to smart phones and tablets and viewing up to 50 minutes at a time. The key is if they are interested in the content and if they want to learn. We've also found with multiple age groups that audiences will view in smaller chunks while they are performing other duties, such as shopping and errands.
There are also times when mobile may not make sense because of size and type of interactions.
Next, think about the mobile device from these perspectives:
Form factor: From what orientation will learners view the content—i.e., portrait vs. landscape?
Network latency: Will users be using a WiFi, 3G, or 4G connection and how will your content perform?
Hardware: Obtain a device(s) to perform testing. With larger courses or files, utilizing faster network connections may drain batteries faster and require plugging in.
First Time, Start Small and Scale
When launching your first mobile project, think small and how your audience can take advantage of your content. Measure results and then continue to build, add, and improve with each new release or update.
Any content launched through a Web browser should look to use the new standard in HTML5. Web apps support all devices, have a faster development cycle, and require a Web connection.
Native apps have faster performance and can be pushed with an enterprise solution if you manage the devices, but we've seen a bigger shift toward allowing learners to use their own devices, which creates new challenges. Creating apps that can be distributed on the major platforms—Apple iOS, Google Play for Android, Amazon, and Microsoft-based platforms—requires an investment and may add costs for development, testing, and support for each additional platform.
Hybrid apps allow learners to install an app on their device and then log in and pull in data based on their account via the Web and push data back to the server for tracking and analytics.
Keep in mind that developing a mobile course or app or creating a responsive deliverable may add 90 days or more to your development schedule.
Look at new tools, apps, and strategies on how concepts can be tested prior to moving into full development. We have been building link-based prototypes with Adobe Acrobat Professional and POP-Prototyping on Paper. Join me at the Training 2014 Conference & Expo February 3-5 to learn more about developing a mobile strategy.
Nick Floro is the president of Sealworks Interactive Studios. He has more than 22 years of experience developing e-learning solutions, applications, and Web platforms. Floro has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to help them understand the technology and develop innovative solutions to help their teams and customer base. He has won numerous awards from Apple and interactive organizations for productions and services.