Desktop Sites Living in the Shadow of a Mobile World

In Mobility by Daniel NewmanLeave a Comment

Desktop Sites Living in the Shadow of a Mobile WorldSomewhere north of a billion: that’s the boggling number of websites the internet houses—but most of them aren’t optimized for mobile viewing. Although mobile and tablet devices are the internet screens of choice, many companies haven’t taken the plunge into mobile-friendly website design.

Applications provide key services to mobile users. When you factor in apps, businesses face a grim reality: fewer people will spend time on desktop-designed websites. Even if your company optimizes for mobile, Nielsen reports that smartphone users spend only 14 percent of their time on the mobile web—for the remaining 86 percent, users are in applications. So what’s a company to do?

Don’t Get Left Behind

According to data from ERS Computer Solutions, mobile has already overtaken desktop in a big way. In 2014, the number of mobile users accessing the internet surpassed those of desktop users, and the gap keeps growing. In 2015, there were an estimated 1.9 billion global users on mobile devices compared to 1.6 billion on desktop. I foresee that desktop visits will continue to diminish while mobile visits increase. Wearable technology will also grow, with an estimated 176.9 million users by 2021. Sites not optimized for mobile will see a marked decrease in visits. Frankly, our attention spans are too short to deal with websites that aren’t easily accessible via our devices.

When will businesses finally realize their sites are missing out on huge amounts of traffic on mobile? By 2018, global mobile data will reach a run rate of 190 exabytes (the equivalent to over one billion gigabytes) each year. Those who aren’t participating in the mobile movement are already behind the curve.

Embrace the Now

It’s time we move beyond the term “mobile optimized” and think more of “mobile-first.” Businesses should no longer design websites with a WordPress plug-in for mobile viewing; they should design websites with the mobile experience in mind. Mobile should not be an afterthought; desktops should be a secondary consideration.

Still, you often can’t do everything on a mobile-optimized site that you can do on a desktop one. Have you ever tried to perform a task on a mobile site only to realize you need desktop access to do it? And have you ever just given up because of it? You’re not alone, and that’s precisely the problem when businesses design sites with the desktop in mind. That’s thinking in the past. Instead, choose a mobile-first perspective of the present—with an eye on the future.

Social media websites are creating innovative solutions: for example, Facebook’s messenger app makes internet browsing more pleasant for mobile consumers. Apps like these take advantage of a smartphone’s browsing-friendly features, like the touch screen.

Google is also leading the charge on mobile content. To fix issues with slow-loading content and ads that block screens, they’re urging companies to alter the software that’s powering their sites. If Google can convince enough businesses to make the switch, the search engine could speed up mobile websites while adding more-useful features—like messaging and notifications.

The tech giant has two projects in mind to follow in a native app’s footsteps. The first project is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AWPs), which aim to clean up the bulky desktop code that’s slowing mobile websites. The second project is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which take the process a step further.

PWAs will help website operators create mobile experiences akin to those found in a mobile app. The main goals will be to improve speed and usability, and include notifications and easier mobile payment options.

Looking to the Future

I believe Google’s PWAs project gives business operators the tools to keep pace with consumer demands for mobile browsing capability. It’s time for businesses to stop thinking in terms of desktops and embrace the notion that the mobile revolution is already here. Optimizing for mobile is no longer the norm; creating a mobile experience should be the first thought on a business’s mind. Desktops are still important, but mobile will be what drives conversions.

This article was brought to you in part by HP, Inc. Opinions and thoughts are those of the author. 


Photo Credit: Wild Dog Design via Compfight cc

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.

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