(By computer I mean desktops, laptops and notebooks … not phones, tablets, washing machines or anything else with a chip in it. )
Before you get any ideas, this isn’t about computer hardware problems, or forgetting to switch your computer on. In many ways what follows is potentially much more serious, as it concerns everyone who visits your website.
Cast your mind back to the spring of 2009.
The launch of Windows 7 was still several months away, we’d have to wait another year for the iPhone 4, and the first Android phone was just six months old. On the social media front, Facebook was five years old and had about 350 million registered users (about 25% of the current number), and Twitter was three years old with 8 million registered users (about 1% of the current number).
Did you have a website in 2009?
Virtually everyone visiting your website would have been using a computer (see my definition above). Website design generally took this into account by keeping the site width below about 950 pixels, and by using ‘web safe’ fonts and colours.
In 2009, few businesses were using social media as a marketing tool, so your website visitors probably arrived through a search or by typing in the URL (such as www.web-right.co.uk).
Do you still have the same website in 2014?
Oh dear. If you have, your website is probably looking a little dated, and if you haven’t been changing and adding to your content (the words), it is probably being out-performed by your competitors. These, however, could be the least of your troubles.
Since 2009, there has been a dramatic change in the devices people are using to view your website, and how they find it. I’m talking about mobile devices and social media channels, two technologies which have grown up together in the last five years.
Looking at social media first, not only are Facebook and Twitter hugely bigger than in 2009, but there are many more channels, such as Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. Businesses are using social media channels to advertise, manage their customer service, and to drive traffic to their websites.
Linked to the rise in social media use has been the increase in mobile devices. In fact, social media relies on people being able to view and send messages at any time and from any location. People are no longer tied to a desk, mains supply, or heavy piece of kit in a small suitcase.
As well as their use-almost-anywhere feature, mobile devices have one other thing which sets them apart from ‘normal’ computers – the screen size. Something with a screen which measures 18” by 12”, would be pushing the ‘mobile device’ tag a little too far.
“We have a problem, Houston”
Now, as a website owner, you have a problem. Even if you haven’t noticed it yourself, a visitor coming to your website from a mobile device might have a less than satisfactory ‘user experience’. People are used to scrolling down to see more content, but you make life very difficult for them if they also have to scroll sideways to see and read everything. They could shrink the website so they can see it all at once, but they probably won’t be able to read the tiny writing.
Have a look at this graph – it shows the percentage of internet traffic to websites in the UK, spilt by device type. As you can see, in 2009 99% of internet traffic came from desktop and laptop computers. Mobiles were just beginning to register on the stats. Tablets such as the iPad and Galaxy, made their mark for the first time in 2011. By 2014, traditional computers only account for 68% of website traffic, with mobiles at 19% and tablets at 13%. So nearly one third of all website visits will be from a device with a small screen.
How well does you website display on a small screen?
We’ll be looking beyond the averages in the next blog, together with what website owners have or should be doing to keep up with the mobile technological revolution.
Device information from StatCounter Global, samples for April- June each year 2009 to 2014.