Mobile Usage Will Explode in 2012

Have you noticed that more and more of your friends and family are buying iPhones, iPads and other smart phones and tablets? It seems that smartphones aren’t just for geeks anymore; even my non-techie aunts and uncles are picking up Apple or Android-based phones.

What does this mean for local business owners?

The question I have regarding this trend is whether this has a direct impact on companies in Edmonton. Are you one of those business owners thinking about creating a mobile-friendly website? The bigger issue is, does your website userbase really justify that kind of effort?

Luckily, we have a few clients across different industries who allow us to check out their analytics from time to time. The resulting trends shocked us, so we thought we would share.

After the Christmas break, we’ll be releasing a series of posts showing the trends in mobile usage of websites across several industries. While the percentage of website users in each mobile category varies, it’s abundantly clear that the growth trend for 2011 was consistent and that having a mobile friendly website will be critical for more industries in 2012.

For now, a couple of interesting stats

We came across these interesting stats from a recent article in the Canadian Press:

  • According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, Canada has more than 25.5 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of the third quarter of this year (up nearly one million since the beginning of the year)
  • comScore, a measurement firm, estimates that about 40% of Canada’s mobile users have upgraded to a smartphone
  • Media Technology Monitor, a product of CBC/Radio-Canada, estimates that tablet ownership will double in 2012 (from 5% to 10% of the population)

How many users will it take?

For most website owners, the question that really matters is “how many of my users are on mobile” and “how does my website work on mobile?”. Frequently, the answer to the latter is best described on a 1-10 scale. Most mobile phones are perfectly capable of browsing “regular” websites. Though not great, they offer the big picture and would get you a solid 6 out of 10 if everything worked. More often than not, however, there are problems.

Anaylze your website

Here are the most common problems that mobile users have when browsing a “regular” website.

  • Flash: Apple forbids flash from their devices; and while there is a flash app for Android, it’s quite slow to load.
    Bottom line: Using flash in the navigation or in other critical areas will cripple your website for mobile users.
  • Hovers or other mouse cursor effects: Does your navigation drop down and glow when someone hovers their mouse over a button. What happens when they don’t have a mouse and use a touchscreen?
    Bottom line: It’s OK if clicking drops the menu properly, but if it doesn’t, your site won’t work.
  • Pop-ups: Smartphones and tablets don’t do popups or modal windows very well.
    Bottom line: You can ask their browser to open a link in a new window, but asking it to open a window and only allow that window to be accessed is asking for trouble.
  • Heavy animation: Since smartphone hardware and software is built to use as little power as possible, they are less powerful than most desktop PC’s.
    Bottom line: Having intensive animation on a webpage is a guaranteed way to frustrate mobile users.
  • Text size and blocking: Most phones can zoom in on text.
    Bottom line: If your text blocks are really wide and the font really small, it’s very difficult to read on a phone.

How does your website measure up? With more and more potential customers viewing your site in mobile or tablet browsers, doesn’t it make sense to make your products and services accessible? Stay tuned for more reports and information on mobile usage and trends in the new year.