‘Card’-based content as an alternative to web pages has great potential to bring major improvements to web browsing and content sharing. However, standardisation among the various proprietary solutions is now urgently required.

Card Formats for Browsing the Web: Standardisation on the Way?

There is no getting away from the fact that at the moment browsing on mobile devices is far from optimal, for the very simple reason that web pages are not designed for mobile interfaces. However, help is at hand with Responsive Web Design (RWD), an approach aimed at crafting sites so as to ensure easy reading and navigation across a wide range of devices through a self-adapting interface. Nevertheless, given the wide range of screen and monitor formats, plus the widespread preference for apps as a mobile content vehicle, RWD is far from being the standard approach to website design – a situation which causes real headaches for software designers. Nova Spinack, a web and ‘next-generation’ social media specialist and consultant, reckons that the future lies in card-based formats.

Cards the ‘third alternative’

The concept of using cards to browse the web allows users to intuitively view content on the small screen, as cards retain only the most important information and meta-data. It is much easier to switch from one card to another than move from one web page to another as this avoids having to zoom in, pan or scroll excessively on the mobile screen. In the same vein as flow aggregators, which enable users to view the key information from a single page, the card format makes it easier for a user to interact with the content. Some software packages, such as Google Now and Windows’ Cortana already use this format and a growing number of software specialists – such as Citia and Wildcard – now create card formats for brands and other content publishers.

The fact that the fledgling Wildcard, a New York City-based startup which was created eighteen months ago, raised funding of $10 million even before its official launch as a company illustrates the potential that sector experts see in this approach. Founder Jordan Cooper has revealed that he hopes one day to replace the default browser on people’s smartphones. Using cards to browse the web is likely to give a substantial boost to m-commerce. “Wildcard takes the best aspects of the web and the best features of mobile apps and combines them in a unique experience. It makes mobile transactions far easier,” he underlines. The Wildcard creation approach, and web cards in general, enable users to draw together a range of functionality in one place. Merchants and publishers will henceforth be able to incorporate a range of actions, such as a ‘purchase’ or ‘register’ button, into their cards.

Cards could well dominate, if…

Nova Spinack sees web cards as the next mass medium, as contact files, audio files and emails have been at different periods in the past. However, before real mass interaction in card-format can become a reality, the industry will need to come up with a standardised card format, in the same way as html became standard for websites. Spinack reckons that the forthcoming Apple Watch will use a card format in order to optimise browsing on its small screen. Among the many advantages of the card format, interoperability and content customisation will allow people to annotate cards and send them to other users instead of just being able to send URL links. Put simply, we might see cards as a sort of interactive bookmark that facilitates content sharing via a single application.

By Eliane HONG