Andertons - mobile

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A new lease of life for an iconic brand...

Andertons music, based in Guildford are one of the UK’s leading independent music retailers.   They pride themselves on being a market leader in the online space.  To stay at the forefront of digital commerce requires an awareness of the latest technological advances, the ability to recognise which of those technologies will help meet current and future business objectives and a passion to embrace and develop those technologies in a way that enhances brand presence in the online space.

In partnership with Sparkstone, the Andertons online platform has evolved to meet consumer demand and expectation.  With the right technology in place and a solid commitment to customer service, Andertons’ website has gone from success to success.

A change in consumer internet usage

Over the past two years the way we access the web and communicate with individuals and businesses has changed dramatically.  The web is no longer accessed solely on PC, but on a wide range of devices, from Internet enabled TVs to portable tablets and smartphones.

Content delivery to such a wide and varying range of platforms brings with it a great many challenges.  It isn’t just a case of making the website fit on a larger range of screens.  The biggest challenge is making data available to users across the full spectrum of devices, whilst maintaining core brand values.

Of all the competing technologies, it is mobile that has seen the largest rise in internet usage.  Developments in hardware, the roll out of contracts offering sensible data plans, more affordable smartphones and the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones, have together led to a mobile internet explosion.  Some estimates suggest that by 2013, internet access on a mobile device will overtake that of desktop.

The potential of mobile was recognised at an early stage by both Andertons and Sparkstone, which led to a collaboration on a mobile website for the brand.

Andertons Music mobile website
Andertons
Andertons Music mobile homepage

Going native?

Initial research focussed on whether to create a native or an open standards web application.  In order to maximise the potential of the app and reach the largest possible audience in a market fragmented by operating systems and handsets, the decision was made to create a web app using open web standards.

Adhering to web standards and best practices is something Sparkstone prides itself on in everyday “desktop” development, so we had a good platform from which to build.  The powerful nature of the latest technologies also provided the opportunity to implement functionality similar to that of native apps, providing the user with a friendly “native-like” mobile experience.

Through taking such an approach, the site is able to work across multiple platforms (Windows Mobile, iOS, Android etc) and numerous handsets, giving Andertons mobile the biggest reach possible.  This also allows us to maintain a single codebase rather than separate instances for iOS, Android etc and means future development can be easily integrated into the application.


  • Andertons Music category navigation

    An Integrated Approach

    The development of a mobile solution shouldn’t require us to rewrite the whole code base – the approach we have taken allows us to leverage the business logic and functionality currently employed by the desktop instance; we just display this in a way more appropriate to device.  As such the mobile site is fully integrated into the core Sparkstone platform. 

  • Andertons Music product details

    Considerations

    Page load speed and bandwidth consumption

    We are used to large bandwidth connections delivering data quickly, in increasingly elegant ways.  In an age where average page size is still increasing, approaching mobile app development requires a different tact.  Consideration has to be given to users accessing content over varying connection speeds.

    The latest techniques were employed to reduce page size and improve page load times, reducing the amount of data consumed by the user (important if they are not using wi-fi) and getting the content to the user as quickly as possible.  This is crucial for any site, but particularly on mobile where download speeds can be significantly reduced compared to desktop.

  • Andertons Music shopping basket

    Conclusion

    Screen size

    When considering mobile development, screen size is an important factor.  2011 saw designers and developers taking a more “responsive” approach to website development.  Using styles that are specific to screen size and resolution the concept of responsive web design sees the same site and content resize/reposition to fit on the device it is viewed on.  Whilst this certainly has its place, for the Andertons web app it was decided that an “adaptive” approach would be more appropriate.

    The adaptive approach sees a different site being offered up to users of different devices.  When a user first hits the site, browser detection determines which site to present to the user.  This comes with the added benefit of allowing us to tailor the content served up.  Careful consideration should be given to all data being sent to mobile users.  If something is deemed unnecessary, then the code for generating that content doesn’t need to be executed or sent to the browser.  This minimises both bandwidth consumption and page load speed.

    Task orientated

    Tasks open to users do not have to remain consistent across all channels.  Rather than providing access to the whole desktop site, the mobile version of Andertons offers a subset of core functionality and tasks e.g. order tracking, product discovery and ease of checkout.  This has the effect of keeping the user focussed and reduces the need for an overly complex navigational system.

    Understanding how users interact with Andertons across multiple channels along with knowledge of design and technical considerations for mobile development has allowed us to open up a new channel for Andertons’ customers, without diluting the core brand values.   The architecture allows for future development to be added to the mobile site with ease, with the assurance that it will work across multiple platforms and devices.

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