USMC Mobile Website

This week, ahead of schedule and under budget, my team delivered a hugely successful mobile deployment for the United States Marine Corps. A terrific example of powerful teamwork and collaboration, this project represents a continuation of the increasingly complex work we’re doing in mobile. With a mobile display layer that accommodates a huge array of handsets and screens, this one was a nice sized effort that required tremendous oversight and a lot of planning & strategy.

One of the biggest challenges with this project was leveraging the existing CMS for content, while presenting larger, longer-form experiences in smaller, bite-sized chunks. We needed to build over an existing infrastructure, a way to take content that was originally (and optimally) designed for a desktop experience, reduce it in both size and scope, and wrap it in a mobile display layer that still reflected both the brand and a look & feel consistent with the desktop experience.

Mission accomplished. Check out some of the shots below, and make sure you take a look at the website in your mobile device.

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Web Directions Unplugged, day one thoughts.

I don’t think I’m going to use the word, “mobile” anymore.

I just don’t think it’s an accurate description of what’s going on. Laptops are mobile. So are tablets. Phones are inherently mobile. It just seems that mobile is redundant at this point, and it doesn’t seem an appropriate portrayal of all of this.

I think it’s better if we all just agree to use the phrase, “device development”. That’s what we’re talking about, right? We’re talking about Galaxy Tabs, Blackberry Playbooks, iPads, Xooms, GoogleTVs, a host of smartphones… the only constants seem to be, A) they have screens, B) they have browsers, and C) they have network connections. They all seems to implement some kind of “App Store”, but the implementations vary. Native Apps seem like a perilous journey, as you’re hitching your horse to a chosen cart. Granted if it’s an Apple cart, your chances seem pretty safe, but what about the rest of the world? Are you comfortable making that choice for a client? Or worse, are you comfortable selling a client on a “multiple native app strategy”?

I spent lunch chatting with a nice gentleman from a very large global airline. His airline has an iOS app. They’ve also got an Android app… and a Blackberry App. He oversees three different teams of developers all with different skillsets that he has to somehow manage and maintain. He’s got a creeping codebase, and from the top, he’s getting pressure on the cost of this whole endeavor. He was in the middle of an epiphany that was fun to watch. He realized, “you know, none of our apps rely on any particular native feature. We’re not using geolocation yet (they plan to down the road, but it’s not something that’s high on his list of “wants” right now) and there’s nothing in our app that couldn’t be replaced by HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery Mobile.” So now he’s rethinking their whole mobile strategy, and I gotta tell ya, I was right there with him.

I’ve said before, I don’t think these technologies are going to replace native app development by any means, and let’s be clear, Apple has a huge… we’re talking giant, interest in keeping native apps at the forefront. They’ll (rightfully) point out that there is a lot of things that Web Apps simply can’t do and for speed, games, graphics acceleration, animation, etc, native apps will always “win”.

See, that’s awesome… if I needed that stuff. But I don’t… really, and there’s the rub. I could take care of my current (and future) clients’ needs with about 99.9% of the features that a web app exposes… and I’d be doing them a service (I think). One codebase, a consistent UI, an effective experience. What’s not to love?

I spent today seeing example after example of open, standard, solutions to the need to create a consistent experience across multiple devices, and I’ve been convinced. I think we’re at a real watershed moment in the development for all these screens and I’m happy to see that the maturity of these tools has allowed such a large and diverse group of developers and designers to move forward in this way. HTML, CSS, Javascript (jQuery)… these are well known, ubiquitous, mature, robust languages and the community has really demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt (at least to me) that the future of mobile hasn’t been written just yet.

Whoops! I mean, “the future of device development hasn’t been written just yet…”.

It’ll take some time… old habits die hard, right?

Sleepless in Seattle… at Web Directions Unplugged.

I arrived in Seattle yesterday for “Web Directions Unplugged”, which begins in a couple hours. Thanks to an early flight and a time-zone shift, it’s 5:30 AM (which is roughly 2:30 AM East Coast Time) and I’m wide awake brewing single cups of Starbucks in my room and getting annoyed by the looping Sheraton Starwood promo on Channel 1.

Why do I always turn on the TV and just leave it on that stupid channel? I only realize it ten minutes later when I hear the words, “Vibrant Social Spaces” for the forty-fifth time.

Anyway, I’m here for a terrific mobile conference that really couldn’t come at a better time. I recently (this past week) upgraded to Adobe Creative Suite Web Premium 5.5 and, as I’ve said before, it’s the most significant upgrade to the product that I’ve ever seen. Integrating jQuery Mobile, PhoneGap, HTML5 and CSS3, this version facilitates the creation of Mobile Web Apps like no other product I’ve ever seen. So like I said, the conference is just absolutely the best conference at the most perfect time. Billing itself as, “two groundbreaking days of practical development and design presented by leading experts in the exploding field of HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript based mobile development” it’s going to be jam packed with terrific speakers, including a couple of speakers from Adobe. Greg Rewis will be speaking on “From Web to Mobile App in 60 seconds” featuring, what else, Dreamweaver CS 5.5, which I can’t wait to see.

The conference has three tracks that focus on three different aspects of mobile development. There’s a “Design Track” featuring content strategy, CSS3, UI prototyping, and touchscreen design (remember, it’s fat fingers, not tiny cursers!). The “Development Track” is going to take a look at maximizing speed and efficiency in your mobile app, HTML5 canvas, offline storage and geolocation. The last track is a “Platforms and Solutions Track” and focuses on the various mobile platforms, devices, and services. They’ll take a look at Android, iOS, and something called, “Blackberry”. Javascript frameworks and packaging technologies like jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap are also going to be featured as part of the Platforms and Solutions Track over the course of the next couple of days.

So like I said, it’s just an excellent conference that’s happening at a perfect time and I’m really excited to get started. I’m going to try and blog my thoughts about all of these technologies and platforms over the next couple of days. Rather than try to “liveblog” the event as one running post, I’m going to switch it up a bit and drop smaller posts about sessions and speakers as they inspire.

First, however, I wanna go get some breakfast. Damn it’s early.

My favorite new feature of Dreamweaver CS 5.5 is a one-two punch in the face.

I only briefly blogged about Dreamweaver CS5.5 the other day and embedded what I thought was a great video of Greg Rewis going through all the bells and whistles of the latest release. He’s got a great blog post on the subject, so I felt like the topic was being covered pretty well.

But I realized, dammit, I love this product so much that I’m gonna go ahead and toss my two cents out there regardless. I think over the next month or so I’m going to try and blog as much as I can about little features, tips, tricks, and particular things that I love about the app that maybe people who are new, or perhaps haven’t dug into it might not be aware of or maybe haven’t had an opportunity to use.

The first thing that I want to point out is what I call, a “one-two punch in the face”. This is the combination that just knocks me out.

I don’t even really need to start a discussion by saying things like, “hey, have you heard? Mobile is big now…” or, “have you seen these ‘smart phones’ that all the kids have these days?”. I think now, all we need to say is, “Mobile is here. Now”. For years and years people have been talking about it and I sat in on sessions at Max in the early part of the “aughts” that predicted this as, “just around the corner” but I don’t think any amount of hyperbole could be used today to describe the impact of mobile on workflows. It’s for this reason alone that I’m excited enough about Dreamweaver CS5.5 to make sure I got my pre-order in the day it was available.

With this release of Dreamweaver, Adobe has added two features that, I know at least for me, are game-changing. jQuery Mobile support, and PhoneGap. Let me be clear, too. It’s not just “support” for the PhoneGap framework. It’s the PhoneGap framework built right into Dreamweaver. We’re talking package your app for app stores and launch the emulators right from within Dreamweaver. Web developers can now call native APIs like notifications, camera, contacts, etc from PhoneGap now within Dreamweaver CS5.5! My friend, Scott Fegette over at Adobe has written an excellent overview piece on how this integration looks in the upcoming release. Check out this money quote:

For Android, the complex process of installing, configuring, and verifying the Android SDK has always been a bit of a chore. Dreamweaver CS5.5 takes all the pain out of this process by providing an “easy install” option, which will do all of the above for you in the background. Although the Apple iOS SDK tools are subject to a different licensing model (and only available on the Mac platform), once you’ve installed the Apple iOS SDK (or Xcode from the Mac App Store), you simply point Dreamweaver CS5.5 to the /Developer directory on your hard drive and you’re ready to go.

Now, I’m not even about to go down a road about how this “replaces app development”, or “now you don’t have to learn Objective C or Java for Android”. Nope. That’s not the case at all. I think those skills are still going to be needed, but what I do see is the ability to deliver mobile content to a wider audience of clients and customers without the barrier of a potentially costly endeavor.  Look, I’ve got clients who don’t need a game. They might not need an overcomplicated app requiring a computer science degree. They’re clients who have an idea or a product they want to expose to the mobile space where a nicely wrapped HTML/CSS/jQuery mobile experience is perfectly acceptable. Both from a cost standpoint and a deliverable experience standpoint. I think there are plenty of opportunities worth exploring for a wide variety of clients who probably haven’t gotten into the app space precisely because of what I’ll call, “the app barrier”. Now, I think it’s safe to say that Adobe and Dreamweaver have significantly lowered that barrier and allowed me to provide tremendous value to clients.

For more information about all of this, you simply MUST go check out the Dreamweaver Channel over on Adobe TV.