Mobile Web Tehnology Options

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© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options
Mobile Web Tehnology Options
© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options
The mobile phone is evolving. Conversations regarding the mobile Web are getting increasingly louder.
And Sapient’s clients want to know: What is the right mobile strategy for this new, ever-changing landscape?
As capabilities and options widen, the choices can seem confusing. This paper responds to clients’ questions
and will explain some of the best platforms that are available for browser-based experiences on the mobile Web.
“It isn’t just about making the Web you
know today work on Mobile Phones.
We are talking about Innovation.”
- Tim Berners-Lee
Mobile Web
Technology Options
© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options
Before diving in, it is helpful to have a basic understanding
of the mobile experience. The mobile Web is not only an
important conversation to have — it’s a critical one.
Those in the mobile space have already realized the trade
off between quality and breadth of audience. In other words,
the more mobile devices that are included, the worse the
experience is. The best experiences are often from native
applications on a single platform, which can be relatively
high in cost. SMS messaging, which works across all
devices, is lower in cost but also results in a poor experience
due to the inability to share Web information.
Currently, there are three standard approaches for
delivering mobile experiences to the consumer. One is
messaging (e.g., SMS, MMS). Another is rich application
(made familiar through the advent of the iPhone). But here,
the core focus will be on the mobile Web.
2.1 Why mobile? Why now?
Wired and mobile browser standards are converging,
thereby reducing the fragmentation we’ve seen in the
past. This is due in part to the evolution of HTML5 and
smartphones, and their efficiency in task-oriented design.
Device features like Geolocation (where a developer can
find a user’s location and customize the experience),
device recognition, and camera integration are starting
to be exposed right within the browser. That indicates a
trend toward richer experiences on the browser as HTML5
continues to expand, and as device manufacturers give us
the ability to build better virtual experiences.
2.2 Limitations.
There are still limitations, of course. Mobile networks
are slower than wired ones, and have a higher overhead.
Accepting your Web access “as is” is certainly not the
ideal option, especially when your CSS (Cascading Style
Sheets), JavaScript, Web analytics, and so forth are not yet
optimized for mobile.
The conversion process has some roadblocks too, since
the mobile experience is fundamentally different. There’s
no mouse, no keyboard, and a smaller screen. The mobile
phone has a much higher ppi and use touch screens. This
just means that there simply needs to be an option that
works for mobile due to these strong differences.
Sapient’s clients often request better ways to address
and monetize opportunities that the mobile Web presents
on both a merchandising and a self-service front. They
continue to ask for:
Coverage. Clients want to make sure that the mobile
solution has a broad coverage of the target device market.
This could include anything from a basic WAP (Wireless
Application Protocol) device to the latest Android handset.
Web asset re-use. Most clients have a large investment
in their wired Web and want to leverage this investment
without having an equal spend on the mobile side.
Parity. In many cases, the client wants parity with the wired
Web. That is, they want to offer the same services on the
mobile device as they do on the Web.
Enhanced experience. The iPhone has raised the bar and
really changed the consumer expectation of the mobile
experience. The on-the-go experience is often enhanced
when compared to that of the wired Web and, in many cases,
cannot be accomplished without the added capabilities of
the mobile device.
No impact on IT. The mobile Web solution needs to
minimize any impact on existing IT teams.
With the client in mind, we’ve developed what we’re calling
“mobile architecture guiding principles” to ensure that
these demands are met.
© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options
specifically rendered for the requested device. The wired
Web site serves as an input for this platform. Some have
proprietary device databases and claim to have thousands
of devices there with hundreds of attributes, so that they
can quickly decide what the capabilities of the target device
are and adapt the content to that target device.
5.2 Mobile Portals.
Mobile portal are products that are used to create a
mobile site that is distinct and separate from the wired
Web experience. Unlike the previous option, these
platforms offer a slew of widgets and layouts with the
option to customize to the requirements that can be
delivered to a broad range of target devices. Most use a
device independent proprietary language for source code.
Developing on these platforms is akin to developing on
traditional Web portal platforms plus the use to the device
independent markup language. And like the Content
Adaption Platforms, Mobile Portals have their own
database based on device type and browser features.
5.3 Custom WebKit Centric Solution.
A WebKit is a layout engine designed to allow Web
browsers to render Web pages. A custom WebKit-focused
implementation would uses markup and language
technology such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. Rather
than target all browsers, this implementation would
concentrate on the more prevalent device classes, such as
the iPhone, the Android, Blackberry 6.0+, and WebOS. The
unifying theme here is that the browsers on these devices
are all based on the Webkit layout engine.
Now it’s time to break these solution types down even
further. Let’s talk about four real options for those searching
for browser-based mobile Web options.
6.1 UsableNet: A Content Adaptation Platform
UsableNet’s pitch is straightforward: Give them six weeks
and your mobile Web site will be ready.
UsableNet provides all the technological services necessary
to translate a Web site to the mobile Web, without involving
the client beyond selecting suitable content for the mobile
product. Because no training or infrastructure is needed,
companies that employ strong in-house Web design and
a mature ecommerce framework will find UsableNet to
Our mobile Web research centered on a number of mobile
architecture guiding principles to help tackle the options.
Six principles stood out as the focus.
Target experiences. WebKit, a layout engine, is a great
example, and it’ll be explained more later. Choosing to
target high-end WebKit-based devices becomes a unifying
factor for the majority of traffic on the mobile Web.
Maximize reuse. Again, by reusing Web processes and
assets, such as design, code, and deployment, we avoid
duplication of the business investment.
Personalize campaigns. The goal is to create unique
experiences for clients around ecommerce and multi-
channel commerce.
Decouple the Web and mobile. Design and development
teams should be separate in order to eliminate
dependencies while integrated just enough to maximize re-
use and consistency.
Allow integration. Multi-channel integration is a key
experience, and online transactions should span the Web
and mobile. For example, if a product is added to a cart
on the phone, the consumer should be able to finish that
transaction on the Web.
Manage traffic. Segment and manage traffic on a device
basis. Clients should be able to take the traffic coming in
from an iPhone and direct it to an optimized experience.
Additionally, the user should have the option to switch to
the full Web experience if they so choose.
Now, let’s focus on the three broad solution types for
developing the mobile Web. Content Adaption Platforms
and Mobile Portals have balanced the tradeoff between
coverage and enhanced experience. They address most
client demands and most of the driving principles addressed
above. Conversely, the custom WebKit is more specialized
and is designed specifically for higher-end smartphones.
5.1 Content Adaption Platforms.
Content Adaption Platforms use existing Web pages as a
source and adapt them into a mobile experience that is
© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options
mobile device. The platform also uses XHTML-based
coding and auto-categorizes unknown devices.
Unfortunately, InfoGin uses .Net-based implementation,
which requires a C#, .Net, and Visual Studio experience
and environment. It’s weaker on actual customer
implementations, and cannot build custom IGML (InfoGin
Markup Language) components. As far as HTML5, CSS3,
and advanced mobile features, there’s not much available.
6.3 Volantis: A Mobile Portal
Volantis employs a combination of transcoding, SiteBuilder,
and custom coding. They have a proven record of thin-client
solutions for a wide variety of customers.
Volantis has modified its product lines and strategy
significantly during the past few years, transforming itself
into a vendor primarily supplying its vast device library
and transformation engine. This narrow market focus
has enabled Volantis to build a significant lead over other
vendors of device library functions,
Volantis uses a language called XDIME (XML Device
Independent Mark-up Extensions), which is based on the
W3C’s DIAL (Device Independent Authoring Language),
an XHTML 2.0 standard. The foundation of the platform is
robust, but has yet to embrace the changes in HTML5.
Volantis has a good number of interface components
documented on its site including auto-complete. It also
uses a custom CSS wrapper (-mcs) that tries to map the
most appropriate CSS properties. Additionally, an XML
Pipeline can consume XML feeds from CMS databases. If
your objective is to code once and run anywhere, Volantis’
multiple solutions can help fill the gap. The platform’s
standard compliance is impressive and features such as
markup optimization are handy.
But, if your objective is to leverage the latest features,
Volantis may fall short. And the narrow market focus
has left Volantis relatively unprepared to answer the
requirements of rich-client architectures. Also, the custom
CSS and theme options are completely dependent on
their parser. And Volantis shows persistent and significant
confusion over standards and technologies in presentation
(e.g., HTML5 and CSS3 were confused with Bondi and JIL
widget frameworks).
6.4 NetBiscuits: A Mobile Portal
NetBiscuits is a complete content adaptation platform
be a perfect fit, because they can delegate the mobile
specialization to UsableNet, and remove the need for in-
house mobile Web programming.
Very often, UsableNet’s clients are from the hospitality
industry where functional aspects such as checking in,
booking a flight, or booking a hotel room have a higher
priority over the mobile experience. Consider UsableNet for
quick projects that need an overnight turnaround. And, if
your user base contains a wide variety of devices, from basic
phones to the most advanced smartphones, UsableNet
may be advantageous for the implementation.
But proceed with caution if your requirements are heavy
on user experience or forward-looking features such as
Geolocation or device recognition. The platform seems
to be closed, though UsableNet claims to provide an SDK
(software development kit) for premier clients. Additionally,
HTML5 and CSS3 features are completely driven by client
requirements, and device recognition is the responsibility of
the client as well. Some sites seem to lack thorough mobile
rendering; some phones just aborted it, which resulted in
lost information such as images.
6.2 InfoGin: A Content Adaptation Platform
InfoGin has been in business since 2000 and employs about
80 people. They use software solutions that are deployed
within individual data centers to create adapted
mobile sites.
InfoGin focuses on a mobile Web adaptation server —
the Intelligent Mobile Platform (IMP). This platform provides
a visual design studio that offers content editing and
development tools to create new or existing Web content.
InfoGin administers content and functionality adaptation,
as well as developer tools among others. In our analysis,
InfoGin’s product offering had more unique features for
custom implementation, such as content overlay, and
the automatic content adaptation platform. If working
with InfoGin, consider having a prototype built up that
demonstrates at least one objective of the experience;
this development should result in a better chance of a
successful outcome.
Favorable features include the ability to adapt CSS and
JavaScript. Additionally, InfoGin has a desktop level
emulator that captures screenshots for Flash and AJAX
responses and then sends back HTML content for the
© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options

The chart below will help to distinguish between the
different platforms available.
Most mobile Web platforms were developed with one single
objective: to render content across all devices — from the
most basic devices to smartphones. With clients looking at
a long-range footprint, they are probably — and should be
— looking at these platforms as a mobile Web technology
If you require compatibility across most devices over
higher-end mobility features, one of the Content Adaption
Platforms or mobile portals provided can probably be
On the other hand, with emerging WebKit devices, the
mobile browser landscape has moved beyond compatibility
into mobility. We’re really able to leverage features that are
only available on specific device families.
By taking a closer look into the platforms that exclusively
serve the browser-based mobile Web experience, you’re
now be better prepared to advise clients on the quickly-
evolving mobile solution space.
whose templates must be created by their authors. This
platform offers components that render across virtually any
device, with the ability to target the specific device and pass
custom code.
Founded in 2000, NetBiscuits focuses on mobile Web
adaptation and hosts more than 10,000 mobile sites. A
mobile site can be built using either their site builder or by
Web applications generating BiscuitML, their proprietary
markup language that outputs content based on device
capabilities. The BiscuitML library provides components
called Biscuits (pre-defined widgets) for all common
content and functional elements of a site. These Biscuits
either render directly or are able to connect to other
resources for content. Each Biscuit has a number of levels,
which ensure that the content of each is optimally adapted
to virtually any end device.
Successful features of the NetBiscuits platform are the
application of strong media transcoding solutions, the
ability to include custom JSP (JavaServer Pages) with mix
of BiscuitML and custom code, and the inclusion of some
rich components including Apache POI, which provides
Java libraries for reading and writing files in Microsoft
Office formats.
But NetBiscuits is not without its share of problems. For
instance, the proprietary markup language cannot be
compiled, there is no advanced HTML5/CSS3 components
featured, and code quality is poor when using tables.
Also, NetBiscuits work well for a basic implementation,
but will not actively support any customization. So, if your
site requires simple implementation and isn’t heavy on
experience, consider NetBiscuits.
6.5 Custom WebKit focused implementation
And, just quickly, remember that we also have the Custom
WebKit platform option, a solution that deals almost
primarily with smartphones.
If 80% of Web traffic is on iPhones and Androids, the unifying
factor is WebKit, the platform that allows Web browsers to
display Web content. It uses HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. It
doesn’t target all browsers, but instead concentrates on the
more prevalent device classes.
© Sapient Corporation 2011
© Sapient Corporation 2011
Mobile Web Technology Options
Ritesh Soni is a Director of Technology at Sapient.
Concentrating on the telecommunications space, Ritesh focuses on the emerging trends in
dot-com, device and network arenas to create transformational strategies for mobile and
social applications. In his role, he advises Fortune 100 companies on how to best align their
investment spend in these fast-growing and dynamic areas in order to achieve top performance
in multi-channel commerce, multi-channel support, loyalty, and mobility.
Ritesh can be contacted at or via LinkedIn.
Gartner — Mobile Architectures, 2009 Through 2012: A Trend Toward Thin (10 Jun 2009, Nick Jones, William Clark, ID : G00166465)
Gartner — Magic Quadrant for Mobile Consumer Application Platforms (3 December 2009, Michael J. King, William Clark, Nick Jones, ID :
Forrester — 2010 Mobile Trends (13 January 2010, Thomas Husson)
W3C — Mobile Web Initiative
mobiForge — Mobile resources
DeviceAtlas — Device detection
W3C mobileOK Checker —
UsableNet —
InfoGin —
Volantis —
NetBiscuits —
WebKit —
This paper was first published as a Webinar on May 20, 2010.