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The impact of using portable devices to access the web

Jun 21, 2013

For some time there have been reports going around that most of the traffic on websites is coming from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets rather than traditional PC’s. I’ve heard that too, and even repeated it. However, when I looked a little closer, we aren’t there yet. According to the Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly report on large eCommerce brands, traffic during the first quarter of 2013 on websites was about 79.0% from desktops or laptops, and 10.6% from tablets and 10.4 from smartphones. What is impressive is that this has more than doubled since the same period in 2012.


It looks like the traditional PC has some life still in it. However at this rate of change, we are only a couple of years from the majority of web traffic to the big sites coming from mobile devices. What is even more interesting is that the same report indicated that the conversion rate (i.e. people who bought something) from tablets was actually higher than from desktops for the first time ever. This means that people are becoming more and more comfortable doing business on mobile devices. Those people probably include your customers.


So what’s that mean for small businesses? If you are selling a service or product and want sales from your website, you need to consider how your site works on something other than a regular desktop. If customers can’t easily view your site on their iPad or smartphone, they may just drop down to the next “hit” on Google and give your competition a try. If they just want to locate your business or find out about what you do? If your website won’t display properly on their portable device, you may miss an opportunity.


Luckily, there are ways to address this problem. The best is probably using what is called “responsive design”. By doing this, you re-create your website making it able to automatically detect what device is looking at it, and reformat itself to fit the space available, whether it is a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Another alternative is to create an inexpensive app. This is cheaper than responsive design, but most companies are moving away from this solution.


Katrein De Graeve in MSDN magazine says this of responsive design: “The key point is adapting to the user’s needs and device capabilities. Suppose a mobile user will be viewing your site on a small screen. Taking the user’s needs into account doesn’t just mean adapting your content to the screen size. It also means thinking about what that mobile user will require first when visiting your site and then laying out the content accordingly. Maybe you’ll present the information in a different order. Don’t assume the user won’t need access to all the site information because she’s on a mobile device. You might need to change the fonts or interaction areas to respond better to a touch environment. All these factors influence responsive Web design.”


At Wyoming Entrepreneur, we are currently going down the path of recreating our website using responsive design. We are attempting to do this inexpensively and without “recreating the wheel”. We are a few weeks away from completion, but the process hasn’t been all that painful. We are incorporating a content management system, combining our blog into our website, and creating a new look. When we’re done, I’ll report on the results.


Has your company addressed the mobile issue on your website? If so how and what were the results?

Category: Web/Tech

Mike Lambert

Mike Lambert is the manager of the Wyoming Market Research Center in Laramie, WY.

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