Back to the Future Again
Yesterday I went to a presentation and panel discussion about mobile technology, and more specifically the state of the mobile content business. I heard from several leading companies about what they were doing, and got some stats that confirmed my suspicions.
We’re very much in the "not ready from prime time" stage of development. Sure, there are some (like me) who look at web sites on their cell phones or PDAs. But the experience is often far from pleasant or consistent.
It’s the consistent part that caught my attention most. When Harry Kargman, the president of Kargo.com introduced his company as "the leading mobile distributor of branded content in the industry," his first comment sounded amazingly familiar to me.
He said that the biggest problem in mobile content is delivering a consistent user experience. Why? Because when you develop content for your Web site, you check it on Firefox and on the IE browser, and if it looks good, you’re done.
But there are a zillion different cell phones out there, with another zillion different browsers, and a dozen carriers. Each one of them displays content from the Web slightly differently. So if you optimized your content for, say, Cingular’s Treo offering, it might not look so good on a Samsung Blackjack. And so it goes.
If you had been sitting next to me you would have detected a faint smile, because this is exactly the same situation in the e-mail business. In our world, there are a zillion e-mail software systems out there (Gmail, Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo, Earthlink, etc, as well as all the Mac flavors) and each one of them renders e-mail slightly differently.
This is one of the reasons why we’ve built a simple-to-use, but very flexible "design-wizard" based content development tool into PatronMail. We test all of our templates against all these browser variations before we launch them. Then, when our clients use our system, we can assure them of consistency.
As an aside, in a few weeks, we’re going to be adding a "use your own HTML" option to PatronMail. And when we do, we’re going to provide a lot of education to the clients that use it, telling them exactly how to test each of their e-mail designs on all the different e-mail systems out there.
In e-mail marketing, just like in the mobile world, you’re not publishing on the two standard Web browsers. Therefore it gets really complicated to ensure your content gets seen in a consistent and professional manner unless you’re using the right tools.