Editors note: T3 CEO and founder Gay Gaddis will be sharing her fiercely independent perspective on entrepreneurship weekly at Forbes.com. This is the first article in the series.
In my industry, and in the work we do for our clients, we don’t go a day without analyzing a new report, forecast or technology release that reinforces the impact and future of mobile.
I see this every day in corporate offices and in the people in my agency who seem to be managing their lives from their phones. For me, the impact of mobile is more telling when I see its impact in unexpected ways and places.
If you drove by T3 Austin headquarters in the wee hours of Saturday morning, you might have noticed all the lights on. We didn’t forget to shut down for the week, but instead to open the doors to developers competing in the official SXSW HackATX all-night hackathon competition.
Competing teams were given access to 23 enterprise-level 7-Eleven APIs developed by T3. The goal: develop new and innovative ways to provide digital convenience.
After a kick-off party at T3 Austin headquarters, a group of experienced developers settled in for a night of coding and creativity to help 7-Eleven re-imagine convenience. We provided caffeine, snacks, T-shirts and development advice. On the line were bragging rights and cold, hard cash.
The night was fueled by a creative spirit, plus lots and lots of hard work from the 27 competing teams. After a sleepless night of coding, 10 teams were asked to present their ideas to a panel of judges. Sean Devlin and Team Doo emerged as the overall winner. His SMS-centric app focused on the convenience of reaching as many 7-Eleven customers as possible. With a simple text message to a dedicated phone number, mobile customers using his app can find the closest 7-Eleven, current promotions, available services (gas pumps, Redbox, etc.) and directions.
Winners were chosen by a panel of industry-leading judges based on a combination of functionality, design and presentation.
“We want to thank everyone who participated and competed at HackATX,” says Pamela Crosier, T3 director of Creative Development. “It was exciting to see such a collaborative spirit coursing through this place overnight. Great fun, great work.”
Core themes about mobile emerged at Stanford University’s recent Future of Media Conference, prompting this attendee to share some thoughts on mobile.
It’s clear that mobile-led thinking is becoming a rallying cry across media types. The rocketing popularity of mobile platforms (smartphones and tablets) over the last couple years has not only impacted the way people communicate, but also how they consume media. Most publishers and producers have seen the percentage of mobile users accessing their content accelerate from 5–10% upwards to 30–40%; in some cases like Twitter or Facebook, well over 50% are mobile users.
People today are far more willing to engage in dialog and sharing, ecommerce and even creating their own content on mobile devices. Media providers of all stripes are recognizing the need to supply a rich and useful experience through these platforms to match this consumer demand.
This rising demand for mobile content underscores a huge challenge. Developing mobile-optimized content experiences is way more complex than merely offering re-sized screen dimensions and lighter weight delivery systems. Variations in operating systems, screen resolutions, bandwidth access and processer speeds complicate the space even further. Because of mobile’s growth, designing for this fragmented array of platforms and ensuring a robust, useful and engaging experience has become a leading issue instead of a trailing one.
Mobile up makes sense.
The idea of mobile as a leading issue is becoming serious business. During the conference, Facebook claimed to have revamped their internal organizational structure to incorporate mobile expertise into all groups, rather than having a separate mobile team. This ensures that mobile and desktop experiences are developed in tandem, and each to its own strengths and limitations, rather than designing for one and repurposing for the other.
Indeed, it would actually be easier to design for mobile and repurpose to the desktop, where there are fewer constraints and technical permutations to address. In much the same way that Twitter character limitations often make crafting a well-written tweet harder than a free-form essay, designing for mobile requires a sense of economy and precision that can be more difficult than web development.
Both organizational and marketing models will be challenged to adopt this new orientation to consumer behavior. Breaking the inertia of workflow process and organizational design can be very difficult and pose real business problems for some companies. But this trend is continuing to escalate and the fragmentation of how people access content is now the norm that all facets of the media and marketing landscape must contend with. And the sooner it’s addressed, the better.