The Mobile Web Is The In-Thing
People have an interesting relationship with their mobile phones. It is a versatile device which has graduated from merely conveying our voice communications to handling all our other communications including socialisation and entertainment.
The mobile phone has been able to occupy this unique position in our lives because of the convenience with which it enables us to carry out these indispensable tasks. Perhaps what places the mobile phone in this unique position is its portability which allows us to carry it along with us wherever we go, most of the time without so much as a second thought.
Mobile devices have been gradually changing the way in which we engage with the Web, replacing the desktop and laptop computer as the preferred device for accessing the Web in what has come to be known as the Mobile Web.
The Move From Fixed Technologies
Up until recently, the traditional means to access the Web was through fixed-line services via desktop and laptop computers. This trend has been changing with the Web now being accessible by portable and wireless devices.
The trend has been increasing to an extent that in January 2014 the mobile Web access exceeded that of desktop access for the first time in the US. This marked a turning point that indicated a major shift in how people predominantly access the Web. This trend has no signs of slowing down as indicated by a report from SimilarWeb which places the proportional mobile traffic nearing 60% in the US.
Before this turning point, the Web was a place predominantly designed with a desktop user in mind. As I am sure you would agree, the way we use the Web on a desktop computer is vastly different from how we do so on a mobile device, and a lot had to accordingly change in response to this trend.
Implications For Websites
The significant shift from fixed technologies to mobile has necessitated changes in the way we view websites. A website designed primarily for desktop viewing does not do very well in a browser on a mobile device.
For such a website, the user has to scroll around sideways and also continuously zoom in and out in order to view the website. Not only is this inconvenient, but it is also extremely annoying. A new way of thinking had to be envisioned to address this.
One approach was to create two versions of the website and let the web server decide which version to show a user depending on whether the user is on a desktop or mobile device. Whilst this approach worked, it created a risk of content duplication as the same content had to be served from two different URLs which is not good for SEO.
The popular and more practical response to this problem is Responsive Design. Responsive Design builds a website to inherently change its dimensions to fit the screen of the device on which it is being viewed. This is a very remarkable approach as the website will automatically scale to fit a desktop or mobile device display.
Implications For Advertising
The mobile Web presents a great opportunity for Internet Marketers. As the numbers of users increase in favour of a mobile user environment, it is crucial for Internet Marketers to take advantage of this trend.
Taking advantage of the increase in use of mobile devices on the web means taking the time to understand the medium and overcoming some of the limitations it presents. Some of these limitations include the fact that mobile devices have smaller screens, windows are not as elegant as on desktops, if they exist at all and navigation is not highly optimised.
Leapfrogging In Developing Nations
The greatest impact and opportunity of these trends in the mobile Web are to be found in the developing world. In these places, the majority of the inhabitants have had to skip the entire evolutionary trail from desktop computers right to using mobile technologies such as mobile phones and tablets in a process known as leapfrogging.
Leapfrogging is enabling the majority of the people of developing nations to participate in the global economy without undergoing the developmental cycles of the developed world. Remarkable stories like mobile money, with the likes of M-Pesa in Kenya and Tanzania, which are successfully being integrated into use for the web are good examples.
By looking at such innovations, it is easy to see how the developed world will benefit from the mobile Web revolution.
Follow The Trend Or Get Left Behind
If your business or organization has an online presence or is planning to have one, it is crucial that you build your website with the knowledge of what is happening with the mobile web. You should aim to provide a great experience to your website visitors by adopting the “Mobile First” approach.
The Mobile First approach designs websites first for the mobile device and allows the design to automatically adjust and scale to fit a desktop screen. If you want to stay ahead, this approach is the way to go because if there was ever a doubt in your mind about the significance of the mobile web, I assure you it's the in-thing and only getting bigger.
What are your experiences with the mobile web? Let us know in the comment section below.