As the latest release of the HTML specification, HTML5 has the potential to profoundly change the way financial institutions market and deliver their products online. What makes it worth investigating and adopting as a development toolset? Why should we push our providers to develop the next generation of solutions using this specification?
Enter the HTML5 private utility application. Private utility apps provide users with information or the means to accomplish a task, as opposed to entertainment apps, which help us waste time (thanks, Angry Birds). They also differ from entertainment apps in that they are generally designed for a specific audience, while an entertainment app needs the widest possible audience. Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play do not best suit the needs of the companies that create, release and support utility applications like mobile banking and content providers (newspapers, magazines, etc.).
Although the HTML5 specification is not yet complete, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe and The Economist have all released HTML5-based private utility apps. The Financial Times launched its site in June 2011 and had one million subscribers by November! Here are some more statistics to chew on:
- The private utility app drives 12% of The Financial Times subscriptions and 19% of its total online traffic.
- Forty-five percent of the users of the private utility app bookmarked the site on their device’s homepage, making it look like just another application installed on their device.
- In the last six months, smart phone access among subscribers is up 52%, while tablet access is up 49%.
The Really Good Stuff
With a fully completed HTML5, some go so far as to predict the demise of the App Store in its current form. The private utility app, which includes mobile banking apps, will shake free from the stranglehold the app stores have on delivering content to mobile devices. While the latest specification is not perfect, the introduction and adoption of HTML5 will affect a financial institution’s marketing Web site and should be used to the greatest advantage.
HTML5 offers some really cool benefits, all of which are important to financial institutions as they point to an improved end user experience regardless of the type of device that is used.
- No more plugins. HTML5 offers strong audio, video, data management and animation support. Adobe Flash (killed by Apple) and Microsoft Silverlight (killed in equal parts by HTML5 and the crowded browser market) are being sunsetted due to this marked shift in Web development.
- Faster page loads. The new specification minimizes the need for additional HTTP calls to the Web server. This makes navigating a Web site faster and easier, pleasing the end user.
- Easier to develop. The specification is much more straightforward to code due to more descriptive Tags, i.e. <VIDEO>. New tags have been added, like <CANVAS>, which makes a bitmap surface to work with; a great way to build charts and graphs.
- Stronger data management capabilities. This makes it easier to handle larger amounts of data and paves the way for stronger, more feature rich applications, including offline capabilities for some apps.
- Strong mobile browsing. Web developers can create highly animated Web sites, which are fully functional on mobile screens.
As previously mentioned, the specification is not yet complete. In the consortium’s rush to release the specification, it sacrificed some truly critical pieces. Critical for mobile banking, that is. For instance, HTML5 does not support Location Based Services (ATM finder). Neither does it support NFC (near field communications), meaning no bump or hover payments support. And, HTML5 is not truly browser agnostic, as was the original intent. Pages still vary from browser to browser. Anyone remember the phrase “best viewed in Internet Explorer”?
What does this mean for FIs?
Companies like The Financial Times and The Boston Globe that have made the move to an HTML5 private utility app did so with these goals in mind:
- A shortened release window. No need to get Apple’s approval when releasing a new version.
- A simplified support model. One version for all browsers, including mobile browsers.
- Providing offline access. With the greater data handling offered by HTML5, newspapers can push the entire paper to the user during one connection. The paper is available all day regardless of connection availability.
- A targeted offering for a target audience. These companies want subscribers, not gamers.
- Greater control over end user data. With the private utility app, the companies have direct control over users’ data and greater insight into users’ patterns of use, making it easier to market to them.
It’s not a big leap to envision how these goals could translate to financial institutions. Think of these possibilities:
- Imagine a marketing site that mimics the appearance of a downloadable app.
- Users/customers do not open a browser (mobile or other) and navigate to myfi.com. Instead, they tap the icon on their home screen and are taken to myfi.com.
- The institution’s marketing and product information is presented without having to wait for a vendor to support these functions as a part of its mobile banking platform.
- Access to banking online can be provided within the site. A mobile app ceases to be THE critical app it is today.
Even in its incomplete state, HTML5 is challenging the app store paradigm with the development of the private utility application. Embrace your inner propeller head, Gonzo bankers, and run do not walk to your Web developers and discuss the opportunities.
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