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Why We Should Care About Mobile Devices

I was reading an article the other day. It was one that I was directed to from another article. This happens a lot. Through reading these two articles, I found this interesting statistic that immediately rang through to me with the notion that I, as a web designer, should really care.

The statistic itself is not all that surprising when you factor in other tidbits of information. The part that I found most surprising was that the report was a year old, released on July 11, 2011.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project in their article released on July 11, 2011, entitled: “Smartphone Adoption and Usage” we should take note of the statistics and be more accepting of the mobile web trends. The article reads:

“When asked what device they typically use to access the internet, 28% of smartphone internet users (the 87% of smartphone owners who go online using their phone) say that they use their mobile phone for most of their online activity”

[Source: Smith, Aaron. Smartphone Adoption and Usage. Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 11, 2011, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Smartphones/Section-2/Smartphones-as-an-internet-appliance.aspx]

Keep in mind that this article is already a year old. If a year ago, 28% of smartphone users were using their mobile phone for most of their online activity what are those numbers more like today when smartphones are even more prevalent? When I did a brief search, I could not find any further statistics about “smartphone” internet usage over regular “cellphone” internet usage. I did find statistics for cellphone usage. That is a skewed number if it includes phones that are not true smartphones but still access the internet albeit with a less efficient and pleasant experience.

The whole point of this is that the mobile revolution is not going anywhere. We are a mobile society. We like our mobile devices. We like our internet. We even like the fact that we can get the two together. It is a match that is not destined to go away anytime soon.

As such the focus should be on how to make the experience good for everyone no matter what the size of the screen.

I can say that I have been to some websites personally while using my iPhone that do not have mobile versions and I have had a pleasant experience. Were they “mobile friendly” so to speak? No, they were not. They were not mobile unfriendly either. I was able to find what I needed and did not have to pull any hair out doing it. I did not receive any more grey hairs in the process. No more wrinkles were manufactured in the experience. For those, I am fine with and I am grateful that their website was user friendly enough that while I had to navigate around the screen using swipes and zooming in and out where I could read and touch the appropriate links, it was not an overall bad experience. These websites would have been just fine on an iPad sized device so do not take my judgement for anything more than a compliment. The sites were fine overall. Just a little small on the iPhone. Zooming while inconvenient worked.

There are other websites that I have visited on the same iPhone and I have not had the same experience. I have left without the information I needed. In fact, I have had to call someone to get the information because I could not get the information from the website as I needed. That is pretty sad when it was movie times and ticket prices and I was on my way to the movie theater to purchase said movie tickets. I was not driving. I was parked in a parking lot at my previous errand location, but I was checking movie times to know where to go and what time I needed to be there by. This with my seven year old son in tow. Not only was it inconvenient, it was not a great user experience for me because I wasted time before I got to the phone call and inconvenienced someone else to get the information for me.

As someone who proudly falls into that statistic above, I have to say that it is half and half on my experiences. I have just decided that if it is a bad website I will not waste much time trying to find information on it. If it is good, it does not matter if I have to zoom in and out to get the information. I will do that if I am getting what I need. I am patient and tolerant. Maybe more so because I am a web designer? I do not know. Maybe I am less tolerant for some things and more so for others.

I have been watching the web statistics on many clients’ websites and have been finding that more and more of their visitors are coming from mobile devices. I have taken the time to visit each of their sites on my own iPhone and experienced their website for myself. I know that the iPhone is not the only smartphone or mobile browsing device out there, but it is what I have to work with right now. I am also working on a plan to make everyone’s experience more pleasant no matter what the device being used. With each client, over time, I will be working out a strategy to build out their mobile friendly websites and helping them to understand why they should care about the experience that their visitors are having as well.

The statistics are what they are. We cannot change those. We can fight them, but we are likely to be losing an uphill battle where the mobile industry is concerned. I do not plan on giving up my iPhone any time soon. I plan on adding a tablet to my line up soon enough.

May the mobile devices live on and may us designers catch the vision and design for mobility!