The Founder and CEO of Israel-based WYSIWYG website builder IM Creator shares his thoughts on the apps vs. mobile website debate
Apple users would be aware of how the company is not too keen on supporting Flash. In one of the major OS X releases, Flash was actually excluded from the out-of-the-box experience, rendering many users unable to view Flash-based animation and rich content on websites. The same goes for Apple’s iOS devices, which do not support Flash content, save for certain apps.
Apple Co-founder and CEO, the late Steve Jobs, actually explained the rationale in a 2010 open letter, which delved mostly on technical issues. Almost four years later, Flash is still very much alive, but mostly on desktop platforms. Mobile devices have risen as the dominant platform for distributing and sharing content, and developers are starting to focus on a mobile-first approach to building apps and websites. If Steve Jobs killed Flash, it’s not through a direct hit by declining to support it on Macs and iDevices. Rather, it was inevitable, due to the smartphone revolution started by the iPhone — and the rise of tablets started by the iPad — which have ultimately led to the demise of heavy client-based technologies like Flash.
Increasing broadband speeds and more powerful processing chips might suggest that it is alright for websites to be heavy on resource utilisation. However, even while there is a demand for accessing multimedia content on mobile devices, not all users appreciate slow-loading webpages, especially if they are accessing them on small screen devices and while on the move. In fact, even Google recommends several ways by which web developers can make it easier for mobile users to access content: through responsive design, dynamic serving (or adaptive design), or an altogether separate mobile website.
This is all in the aim of providing a faster, lighter mobile web experience, of course. There is yet another concern: whether to build a standalone, native app for the major platforms (Android and iOS), or to simply launch one’s mobile effort through a mobile website or HTML5.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both options. Apps are not for everyone, though. Even if businesses and content creators can easily build standalone apps for mobile devices, it might not always be a practical choice. For everyone else, there are tools for optimising web content for mobile devices using professionally-built templates.
IM Creator is a US- and Israel-based service provider that believes in the need to optimise websites for mobile devices. Founded by Jonathan Saragossi of Any.Do, PlayScape and WIX fame, the company offers a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) interface for building websites. With IM Creator, users can create their designs based on existing templates, whilst being able to customise these without necessarily knowing how to code. One of the company’s recent efforts is IXM, meant for building mobile websites.
e27 interviewed Saragossi and sought his opinions on the prevalence of mobile devices, the app-versus-HTML5 debate, as well as Israel being a hub for startups in the region. Here are some excerpts:
What is your take on Israel being considered a startup hub in Asia? Are there key advantages in comparison to other markets such as Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong? What is the startup community like?
I can say that Israel has a unique combination of innovation and entrepreneurial drive and spirit. Israel also has a very creative, skilled, and ambitious workforce, making it the perfect hub for startups and entrepreneurs. The strong VC community here also nurtures the startup community, making it possible for driven entrepreneurs to fulfill their dreams and think big. In addition, Israel’s economy in general is a resilient one, and even through the financial crisis of 2008, it was hit probably the least due to its strong economy. This also helps outside investors feel comfortable when investing in Israeli VCs and startups.
IXM is targeted at websites that are accessed from mobile devices. With mobile devices outpacing desktop platforms in internet access, does it mean publishers and businesses need to shift to a mobile-first strategy?
Absolutely. We see that the entire world has shifted towards mobile, making desktop computers almost obsolete.
People are on the go and demand that all the information and tools they need will be on the go as well. This is something we always keep in mind at IM Creator. When we launched, we chose to launch our website builder based on HTML, not Flash. Just as we saw back then, Flash is becoming an outdated technology, with many sites, particularly in the mobile market, not supporting Flash. We can now say with confidence that Steve Jobs basically killed Flash.
So this mobile shift was in our thoughts when we launched, and it continues to be in our thoughts when we release new versions with new features to our core product and when releasing new products, such as IXM mobile website builder and AppSite, which is a website builder for apps.
What is your opinion of the increasingly app-focused environment in mobile devices. Will this have a negative effect on the demand among businesses to build mobile-oriented or mobile-optimised sites? Why opt for mobile websites instead of building native apps or optimising for aggregators?
Not necessarily, not all small businesses need their own native app. An app can be a complex and overpriced solution for small businesses. I don’t see my hairdresser having his own app. But a mobile-optimised site? Absolutely. Businesses need to be found online, and having an online presence in the form of a website is crucial for that. With a mobile-friendly site, all your visitors — current and future clients — will need to do is search you on Google. With an app, users will need to visit the App Store or Google Play, look for you in the sea of apps and download it to their device. As a small business, you don’t want to have that barrier to be found.