With the rise of mobile and “The App” there has been much talk of late about the evolution or even the  death of the web. At SXSW this year the conference seemed to be as much about mobile, apps and social gaming as the web.  Provocative session titles such as “HTML5? The web is dead, baby!” were rife. Even those sessions which were not directly about this managed to end up talking about why mobile or the app was a positive or negative thing.

The best thing since sliced bread?

Opinion was very polarised. Either mobile was destroying the web as it ignores web standards and takes us back to the dark days of developing different solutions for different platforms or it was leading us to brave new world and the end of the humble web-site. Some leading figures in the industry were calling for web developers and designers to be proactive in evangelising against the rise of the App. The whole situation has become very emotive for some. However, I’m not convinced that there is a battle at all.

Printing on the web.

For me this is about maturing. Remember when the web arrived. Up to that point organisations had printed brochures. This was the main way to get their message out. When the web arrived the first thing everybody did was to put their printed brochure online. This made sense at the time but has been shown, obviously, to be the wrong approach. The web was a new media and required the content and the interaction to be modelled in a  new way.

The arrival of the web did not kill print. Organisations of many kinds still produce printed materials but these materials are not generally reproduced onto the web. Print has its place. The web on the other hand has become something of a free for all. A glorious mixture of text, image libraries, video, productive applications, eCommerce & store fronts, and games to name just a few of the areas that the web has been manipulated to work for. At it’s heart a web page is still just a static document but it has been forced into performing many tasks. The maturing process that happened in the world of print media is about to take place on the web.

Chained to the desk.

The desktop or laptop are now no longer the only way to access the internet. This staggering info graphic (Why mobile matters) shows quite clearly the fundamental shift in internet activity that is taking place right now. When thinking about your online presence you can no longer simply consider a web-site. Instead you need to consider the context in which you content or your application is going to be accessed.

This goes beyond simply deciding if your user has a full desktop computer wide screen display in front them or if they are using a 4″ touch screen smart phone; though this does make things complicated enough. You need to also consider where, and in what circumstances, your content is being accessed.  Is your user sitting at their desk in the office. Are they on a laptop in the kitchen at home? Are they on an iPad or other tablet while watching the TV in their lounge? Maybe they are on a bus using their smart phone?

This context is what needs to drive how you present your content or how you deliver your application.

The smart phone market is expected to grow a staggering 50% in 2011. We will see tablets rapidly closing in on the laptop market share. Your customers are no longer chained to their desk if they wish to access the internet.

I don’t see a battle between the web and the App. There is no choice to be made between mobile web or native App. Each will have its place in the maturing on-line world where context is king.

Connected devices.

And this is the key thing to remember. Until now the internet has essentially been the web.  The web is a collection of documents (though some have morphed into interactive applications) that you access via a desktop computer. This is all changing. This web is now an increasingly small part of the internet. The internet is growing into an ocean of connected devices. All of which access content and interact with it in different ways and in different contexts. Your users and customers are now in a world where their context is king.

Have you experienced this change in context for yourself? How do you expect your experience on-line to change depending on where you are and what you are doing?