When we launched dealcard.co for our client on May 1st I knew it was going to be an interesting case study in the use of mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets – but the results have surprised me. The speed and importance of this growth has been a subject of debate by web developers and designers pretty much since the launch of the iPhone in 2007. Everyone knew it was growing, but how quickly, and does it affect the web habits of “real people” enough to matter to your business?
There are three great things about Deal Card that make this interesting:
- it’s new; there are no legacy users sticking to their PCs because “that’s how they’ve always accessed the website”.
- it’s local; the website is of little interest beyond East Kent – a not especially affluent area – and its use directly represents the preferences and device ownership of the people that live here.
- it’s of broad interest; unlike some websites (for example a technology blog or a web app) the visitors are not significantly skewed by age or interest – all they have in common is an interest in deals, shopping and perhaps Deal itself.
What can we learn?
So, after 10 weeks, the figures are in. Since its launch on the 1st of May 47.6% of visitors used traditional computers (with Windows users outnumbering Mac users over 4:1). The rest used mobile devices: 29.9% on smartphones and 22.5% on tablets (65% of these were Apple iPads or iPhones). Add those together and mobile device usage just passed 50% for a general interest website in a non-affluent area with a large number of older people and retirees.
PC users are now the minority.
To put that slightly more in context mobile device usage in 2007 was under 1%. In the last 7 years over half of us have given up the annoyances of sitting at a laptop or desktop computer in exchange for the trade-offs of a smartphone or tablet (small screens, no keyboards vs. freedom, reliability and ease-of-use). That is nothing short of a cultural revolution. It seems safe to assume that in another 5-10 years those using traditional computers will either be “at work” or be one of a few die-hards – outcasts mumbling cryptically about the merits of anti-virus suites and de-fragging their hard drives. I say this as someone who is still likely to be among them.
How does this help us?
This information is useful to us as web developers as we are often asked whether small, low budget or locally-focused websites should try to find the resources to create a streamlined mobile experience. Where we can we try to include a design that responds well to the size of the screen of the device that is visiting the website – as we have done for dealcard.co – but this can be expensive to get right and often represents a compromise anyway.
Where that isn’t feasible our general recommendation is to take the time to characterize the visitors that will be viewing your website on a mobile and make sure the 3 or 4 things they are most likely to be trying to do (e.g. look at your range of services or products), or find out (e.g. where you are, your telephone number), are made as mobile-friendly as possible. Pay special attention to forms and passwords as these are notoriously difficult on most small devices.
Lastly, if your website is vital to your business – and whose isn’t – grab every chance you get to try your website on a new phone or tablet. Every time a relative or friend shows off some shiny new device ask if you can borrow it for a few minutes and attempt to complete the vital goals you’re hoping your visitors will be doing. If you struggle so will most of your potential customers – so let your web developer know straight away so you can work out a remedy together.
Whatever business you are in and wherever you are based it is now safe to say that if you’re working with a web designer that doesn’t bring up mobile users and mobile considerations you might want to think again – PC users are now a minority.
Addendum: I did wonder if the very nature of dealcard.co encouraged mobile use – and it does – but these figures include all the uses of the business-only areas too, which are more suited to traditional PCs. Those figures are compensating by skewing the data away from mobile so I remain comfortable about the usefulness of this data.