Navigating Trends in Mobile Web

If your business has a website, you want it to be accessible to the widest possible audience.  In terms of viewing it in a web browser on a standard desktop computer, this means testing it in a wide array of browser (IE, Firefox, Safari, etc) and operating system (Windows, Mac) combinations.  The site design then often needs some tweaking so that it functions as consistently as possible across those combinations.  This cross-browser testing is a standard part of the site creation process, and something that a company like Astek will handle without you having to worry about it much at all.

In order for a website to display in a way that is at all useful on many mobile phones, a wholly separate site design is needed.  See Katie Hawkey’s article in this ePiphany for more on the actual details of mobile website formatting. The decision as to whether a mobile format for your website is necessary requires some cost-benefit analysis.  Lets consider some statistics and trends.  The percentage of total web traffic over mobile phones was at 1.26% by the end of 2009, having doubled over that year (source).  I was unable to find any more recent numbers, but given the trend it would be reasonable to put it near 2% by now.  A more telling number is that 35% of US adults say they access the internet with their phones, up from 25% in 2009 (source).


So, a really significant number of people are using phones to look at websites, although they probably still use their computers more often.  But if they check your website once and it comes out all jumbled on their phone, you have left a bad impression.  Another wrinkle is whether a visitor’s mobile browser even needs a separate mobile-formatted design.  Smartphones like those on the iPhone and Android platforms have web browsers which can view websites pretty much the same as desktop web browsers.  Other phones, including all current Blackberry models, have web browsers with a very limited way of presenting websites.

23% of US mobile phones users had so-called smartphones in Q1 of 2010, although 35% of these were Blackberry users (source).  So that means about 85% of mobile web users would likely need a mobile-formatted version of your website in order to get much use out of it. I’d say that’s a pretty compelling case for making implementation of a mobile web design a priority.

Note however, that smartphones are trending to overtake so-called “feature phones”, perhaps before 2012 (source).  And Blackberry is set to release a new operating system with a fully-fledged web browser sometime this year.  So the absolute need for mobile-formatted designs will wane.  I as an iPhone user actually still appreciate mobile-formatted websites though.  Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pull up a website and quickly browse it without having to zoom and pan, although I do still always want a link available for the option to view a site in its original format, if the mobile format comes up automatically.


To wrap up here, I wanted to touch a little bit on “apps” in relation to mobile web browsing.  Firstly, if you don’t have any new functionality to put into an app that isn’t already in your website, don’t bother!  It’s not worth your expense to develop an app for multiple smartphone platforms, and there is significant effort to do separate ones for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.  Especially when users of those phones would likely prefer to just use their browser rather than have pointless app clutter.  But, if you do have a good reason for developing an actual smartphone app, you’ll then need to consider the market share statistics and trends there too, which I’ll spare you the details of after the feast of stats above.  But Astek can help you to both navigate those considerations, and to build the actual apps.  Got an idea?  Talk to us.

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