The Rise of Mobile

Last week, the iPhone 5 was released.  Five million iPhones were per-ordered prior to the release, people were selling their spots in line at the Apple Stores for a few quick bucks, and amazingly economists predict that the iPhone 5 will actually measurably move our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Yes, a Smart Phone can help accelerate the US further out of the recession!

So what does this mean to us?  Do you need to run out and get an iPhone 5?  I’ll leave that up to you.  I’m staying with my iPhone 4s for a while longer and I’m sure there are plenty of you out there that are very happy with your Android phone.  What it does mean though is mobile computing has reached its prominence and we all need to be there.

A 2010 study by Microsoft predicted that by the end of 2013, there would be more smartphones surfing the web than there will be PCs and laptops.  The same study said that the average American spends 2.7 hours per day socializing on their mobile device.  At first, I thought that was ridiculous, but walk into an elevator or look around a Starbucks these days.  What are people doing?  They’re staring at their phone!

For the average church it means now that we now need to focus on ensuring our website works on mobile phones.  The smartphones today will serve up most websites.  In fact, probably all websites will run on a smartphone unless they’re rely heavily on Adobe’s Flash product.  The iPhones still won’t support Flash and the Android phones will be dropping support for it in the future as well.  However, just running your website isn’t enough.  Is it useable on a smartphone?

Do a simple test.  Try accessing your church’s website on a smartphone.  Can you read the text or is it to small?  Now, try and do the three most common things people go to your website for:  find your mass times, contact phone numbers and email addresses, and directions to your church.  If you can’t do these simple functions on your church’s website, you’ll be literally missing over half of the your website’s potential users next year.

All church websites need to support mobile.  You don’t necessarily need an App, in fact, I would advice against it, but you do need a website that’s mobile aware and adjusts to whatever device your parishioners and visitors are using to find you.  Unfortunately, very few church website products currently do this.

At Liturgical Publications, we just revamped our church website builder, WeConnect, to be fully mobile aware.  The website adjusts dynamically to the size of the browser window and the device you’re using.  We believe there’s really only two core functional requirements that every church website needs to have:

  • The content on the website must be simple to maintain.  You shouldn’t need a Masters Degree in Computer Science to update your church’s home page; you should only need to reasonably comfortable using Microsoft Word.
  • Your website should be useable on any Internet Device.  PCs or Macs, iPads, IPhones, or Androids.  We may be passionate about our faith, but in terms of technology, we need to be agnostic.

If you’re website doesn’t work on smartphone effectively, I would encourage you to talk to your website vendor.  If you’re looking for a new website, please check out our list of Catholic Website Vendors.  This is a great list to start from although not all yet fully support mobile.   For more on the impact of Mobile Technology and the Church, please check out our presentation on Slideshare.Net.

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Author:Joe Luedtke

Joe Luedtke is the Chief Operating Officer for Liturgical Publications (LPi). Joe specializes in Social Media and Web 2.0 and is currently leading LPi’s efforts to move into the on-line world. Joe works for the world's largest and oldest social network, religion, and believes that this social network could benefit tremendously from the the proper use of Internet technologies.
  • Phil

    I predict a backlash is coming from web developers. At some point we’re going to grow weary of having to customize our sites for an ever growing and ever changing universe of different browser/platform/devices.

    The vast majority of sites simply don’t have a good enough business plan to merit joining the browser/platform/devices rat race.

    If smart phones were the end of it, then it would make sense to adapt. But smart phones are just the beginning. How does your site look on the pencil browser, or the milk carton browser, or the tire gauge browser, you’d better check! Nah, that’s ok, thanks anyway…

    For myself, just one grumpy old guy vote, I say if folks insist on browsing the web on tiny, tiny, tiny little screens, they are on their own, and I wish them luck. :-)

    • http://www.catholictechtalk.com/ Joe Luedtke

      Phil,

      It would definitely make a web developer’s job noticeably easier if we didn’t have this challenge. However, I’m not too sure how they would deliver the backlash. I host about 300 church websites right now which is a reasonably good cross section of churches. Based on my Google Analytics data, I can tell you over 20% of the traffic is coming from mobile devices right now. This figure climbs to over 30% if you include tablets. Churches who don’t embrace mobile, run the risk of losing this web traffic and those potential parishioners.

      I had the opportunity to attend the Diocesan Fiscal Managers Conference last week and one of the speakers, a demographer, reminded us that the next generation of parishioners, Gen Y, “speaks Cyber as their first language”.

      Personally, i’m probably more like you, I find surfing the web on my iPhone’s small screen a little annoying, but I’m not part of this mobile generation.

  • Phil

    Hi Joe,

    Well, I’m not really arguing with the good points you’ve made, perhaps just expressing what 17 years as a web nerd can come to. I’ve seen so many of these “latest greatest tech fad thingies” come and go that perhaps I’m a bit burned out on the routine.

    I did check my sites on the iPad the other day, and they passed, at least in horizontal mode. But the iPhone seems to require an entirely new design, so that will have to wait until, um, maybe never.

    I admit generation gap syndrome may be happening here.

    As example, I really LOVE forums, because there’s room in that format to actually say something worth reading.

    But I pretty much hate Facebook, Twitter and texting devices, as they seem deliberately designed to prevent anything other than little bits of random this and that, which just doesn’t interest me.

    To me, these systems make the net too much like TV, an endless wasteland of nothing delivered on impressive technology. But I have to admit, just like TV, the social/mobile revolution is really popular.

    Just to play the debate game, I would have to question what kind of bonding connection a web surfer can make with a church on a cell phone screen. I guess they can get the mass schedule and parish phone number. I guess I have higher aspirations for web sites.

    So this is my way too wordy rowdy rant! :-) Would you read it on a cell phone? Maybe part of the first sentence….

    PS: 300 church sites! Awesome, way to go dude! Really, that’s impressive.