Back in 2008 I started paying attention to some interesting data and forecasts that predicted how we were all going to be using our mobile phones to browse the web in the future. It was hard for me to believe as I had heard this claim for a decade. I remember logging into my online bank account using a Nokia 6210 back in the early 2000’s. It was a horrible experience with more false starts and fumbling than two teenagers making out!
The cause of all the problems was WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), the early forerunner to mobile web. It basically delivered websites that looked like text messages and were as user-friendly as DIY furniture supplied with a Chinese manual. Even then the sites were slow - so slow that you lost the will to live before the 4 lines of text (that’s all that would fit on the phone’s screen) would even load!
You can understand therefore my initial disbelief. However something interesting happened at around the same time. In 2007 the IPhone launched and changed everything. A big hi-res screen (well at least compared with the alternatives of the day), fast internet access (although it took the Iphone 3G to deliver broadband speeds) and a qwerty touchscreen keyboard meant that mobile internet browsing became a reality at last.
However, the browsing experience still wasn’t perfect. A small screen could not properly display large websites and the Iphone didn’t support Flash (very common in 2008, but not used much anymore - mainly because of mobile browsing). So a funny thing started to happen. Websites developed specifically for browsing on the smaller screen devices started to pop up and web developers created identification scripts to recognise if a visitors was using a mobile device and would then serve the mobile site rather than the desktop site.
Although rather crude in those “early days” (that sounds so funny when it was only a few years ago), in a very short time the calibre and capabilities of these sites has grown exponentially and with it the need for every business owner to now seriously consider the creation and implementation of a mobile website.
I became a believer in the need for mobile websites in 2008 and now my company provides a mobile website with every website we deliver. However if you’re still sceptical or just unsure about the need for one, consider these points:
- Smartphones Sales Overtook PC Sales in 2011
Market Research by Canalys (carried out in Feb 2012) indicated that more Smartphones were sold in 2011 than all client PCs (including laptops, netbooks and Pads). This is HUGE as it shows that Smartphones are well on their way to becoming the leading “platform”. Despite this Smartphones represent only 12% of global handset install base, but in just a few more years it will eclipse that too.
- Global Mobile Data Traffic More Than Doubled For The Fourth Year In A Row
Mobile data traffic (that is the internet traffic consumed specifically by mobile devices) grew by 133% in 2011 (according to Cisco). Mobile internet users consumed 597 petabytes per month in 2011. That’s 597 billion megabytes per month! It is forecasted to double again in 2012 and will increase 18-fold between 2011 and 2016.
- Mobile Network Connection Speeds Grew 66 Percent In 2011
Smartphone users are consuming more data because it’s becoming easier and faster to do so. In 2011 average connection speeds grew to 1344 kbps, up from 968 kbps in 2010.
- Average Smartphone Usage Nearly Tripled In 2011
All the previous data could simply mean that a small percentage of users were doing all the browsing and although that was the case previously, 2011 data shows that this is no longer case as average smartphone usage grew to 150MB per month, up from only 55MB in 2010.
- Smartphone Users Prefer Browsing To Apps
According to Comscore (Feb, 2011) smartphone usage of browsers eclipsed that of apps in the final quarter of 2010. When it came to finding information like news and sport, browser usage was double that of apps.
So what does all this mean? Well it’s quite simple. If you are not already planning the introduction of a mobile website for your business then you need to be doing so. The period from 2012 to 2014 are critical years where the mobile web will become a leading platform for consumers to find information.
Just think of those millions upon millions of users browsing every day on their smartphone for what you provide. Now put yourself in their shoes if they happened to land on the website you have today. You don’t have to imagine too hard, just visit your website on a smartphone and try to navigate the site. Is it easy, difficult or just impossible? If it’s anything but a pleasurable experience that they don’t even have to think about, then they will simply leave and find a competitor’s website that has been mobile optimised.
In essence it’s the same message you heard when you didn’t have a website and were told that your customers were browsing and not finding you. The difference now is that it’s worse. Now they will find you and think that you simply don’t care enough to provide them with pleasant browsing experience!