If you’re like half the top 20 top web sites ranked by Nielsen Online then your answer may well be: ‘What the … ?’ When mobile software provider Bango conducted a recent survey, results showed that a remarkable number of companies are neither optimizing their sites for mobile, nor tracking how much mobile-generated traffic they get.
Current estimations from Nielsen Mobile put mobile internet penetration at 15.6% in the USA, 12.9% in the UK and 11.9% in Italy. This is described as having reached a level of critical mass. With figures like these businesses can ill afford to be making websites that are compromised when viewed on mobile phones.
Do mobile internet users behave differently from PC users?
The most significant difference in this regard is that mobile users visit fewer sites than PC users. They are still searching (40% state that they find sites via search engines, while 22% type in a URL directly) but they are less likely to visit numerous sites related to a single search. Nielson Online reports that the average PC user visits 100 domain sites each month while mobile users average only 6.4. This means there is good opportunity for your site to be found by a mobile searcher, and stresses the importance of making sure it is optimized for mobile.
The pitfalls and perks of mobile internet
Most frustration around mobile internet relates to network dissatisfaction and slow data transfer speed. Similar to the transition from dial-up to broadband with PC internet use, the evolution of 3G (third generation) networks are bringing vast improvements to consumer experiences of mobile internet.
Full exploitation of the benefits of mobile internet is just starting to be imagined. Predictions indicate positive relationships between users and businesses who wish to tap the mobile market. Mobile internet users are open to mobile advertising and are quite savvy when it comes to the realities of paying for the technology. 23% of US mobile data users expect to see an increase in advertising and are open to this as a way of subsidizing the cost of their mobile internet use.
At this year’s FOWA (futures of web applications) Expo, Stefan Fountain from Soocial delivered a presentation about the future of mobile internet. He predicts a shift away from the emphasis on devices (phones vs PCs vs PDAs) and towards actions and applications. Citing a fridge that knows when and what food to order and restock, he describes a world where ‘internet’ will become akin to ‘electricity’. It will be ubiquitous, flexible in delivery and we will only really notice it when it is absent.
What this means for businesses is a prompt to start thinking about how your service might be flexibly delivered via mobile internet. Making sure your website is optimized for mobile phones is one thing, but imaging how your product might interact in a mobile way with people’s every day lives is the next big conceptual leap.
A checklist for happy mobile internet translation
In the meantime, there are a few things to consider when designing your site, or communicating with your web designer. It is worth referring to a resource regarding mobile web best practices to ensure your site is well optimized for mobile internet use.
On a practical level, keep in mind that simple site structures with clear labels, limited use of Flash or other custom applications, images in accessible forms such as jpeg or gif, optimized graphics for quick download, and keeping maximum page size under 20 kb will help make your site user friendly across a range of mobiles. You should also submit your mobile site map to Google.