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With over 60% of the UK owning a smartphone and just under a fifth of the population owning tablets, it’s vital that businesses and brands are thinking about the different types of device their websites are being viewed on, and also what situations the users are in when viewing websites. 

A recent report from Econsultancy found that four out of five organisations in the UK are still not designing their websites for smartphones or tablets.

As the use of mobile devices continues to increase, businesses need to be thinking about how their websites are appearing across the huge range of mobile and desktop devices available. 

We all know how discouraging it can be when you come across a website on your mobile or tablet that you can’t view correctly.

If users have to zoom in and out and move back and forth several times to view a web page, they are more than likely going to find another website that is mobile optimised and therefore easier to use.

A recent study from Google confirms this with 61% of its respondents saying they would ‘quickly move onto another site’ if they struggled to find what they were looking for on a website that wasn’t optimised. 

According to comScore, the mobile web is set to overtake desktop internet at some point this year, and for a number of our clients, this is already the case.

In the last month, nearly half of the visits to Mubaloo’s website have come from mobile, and that’s from 200 different types of mobile device! In the increasingly fragmented mobile landscape, businesses really need to consider how their website is being viewed across a whole range of devices, as well as considering mobile context, otherwise they could potentially be missing out on a huge part of their audience. 

One of the newest solutions enabling websites to be accessible across different devices and platforms is responsive website design.

A responsive website will adapt in different ways to fit any screen size. Whether you’re using a 27 inch desktop display or a handheld mobile device, a responsive website will shift and adapt content to display it in the best possible way on the device being used. 

Take a look at our video to see this in action:

There are many advantages to a responsive website. These include reaching out to the widest audience possible with one set of code, meaning only one set of content to manage, reducing costs through single platform development and, essentially, delivering a great mobile experience regardless of device. But this doesn’t mean the approach will suit every type of business. 

It might be better for a business to opt for a dedicated mobile website or a mobile app instead of, or as well as, a responsive website. This will depend on the existing online offering and the experience businesses want to offer their users, not forgetting mobile context as well.

A user visiting a website on a mobile device may have different requirements to a user visiting a desktop website, or they may not. 

There is a common misconception that users visiting from a mobile device are always on the move and want different information to those visiting from a desktop computer or laptop. This was probably the case a few years ago, but as more people are using mobile devices instead of their desktops and laptops, it’s essential businesses do not make assumptions when developing their responsive or mobile websites.

Findings from IAB Research in 2012 show that the home is the most widely used location for mobile activity. But it’s important to remember that people are still using these devices on the move as well. Businesses need to find the right balance when thinking about the content on their mobile optimised websites and this will depend on the type of business, and again, the mobile context, or rather the situations users are in when using their mobile device. 

Whichever mobile presence a business decides on, it’s important to remember that responsive websites, dedicated mobile websites and mobile apps all have a role to play, and businesses and brands need to spend the time evaluating which presence will be best for them based on user experience, mobile context and existing offering. 

Clair O'Neill

Published 7 March, 2013 by Clair O'Neill

Clair O'Neill is Marketing Assistant at mubaloo and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow on Twitter and Google Plus, or connect via LinkedIn

13 more posts from this author

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Robert McWhirter

Nice article with a good introduction to responsive design.

One point that I think is a little overlooked is the assumption that every business needs to make their website mobile friendly.

This might sound like a strange thing to say, particularly when we are hearing that users are increasingly using mobile devices to access the internet.

However, businesses shouldn't make assumptions of how their users are accessing their site based on how people are generally accessing the internet. Before a business commits to a mobile first strategy, it's worth doing some homework (or making sure their agency does their homework) about how their customers are accessing/trying to access their website.

For example, whilst at work I access everything via a desktop. Therefore those sites that I only need to access while at work do not need to be mobile friendly to meet my requirements.

In a lot of cases a mobile strategy will make sense, but it's a dangerous road to invest in a strategy that is based on assumptions.

over 3 years ago

Clair O'Neill

Clair O'Neill, Marketing Executive at Good Energy

Hi Robert,

I agree. It's important not to make assumptions and businesses should most definitely be tracking through analytics to check how many users are visiting from mobile devices. However, I think businesses really need to start considering mobile strategies, even if their mobile audience isn't huge, it's likely the number will continue to grow.

Your point about being at work and only viewing sites on your desktop does make sense, but that's only for you. Other people at work may use tablets, or may want to visit the sites you visit during work hours, while they are on the train, or working from home, on a mobile device.

This is why it's so important to get the right balance, and it can be tricky!

over 3 years ago

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Robert McWhirter

Hey Clair,

Absolutely. I guess it's just about making sure you do your homework first: talking to your customers, looking at your analytics and working out how your site needs to work to meet your user requirements.

Again, nice article, thanks for writing it.

over 3 years ago

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Henri

@Clair
Working from home on a mobile device? Not very productive...?

over 3 years ago

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

The use of devices across the day is interesting and the general trend can be summed up as. Mobile in the morning while commuting, accessing news in general, desktop during the day with a work related slant, tablet and mobile in the evening for shopping, travel and interaction with T.V. Obviously if you are say a builder then mobile is going to be your primary internet connection no matter what time of day so understanding your audience and they're habits is as important as knowing if they are hitting your current site. Don't forget with the changes in PPC that any business using search marketing will need atleast a tablet version of the site as segmentation reduces.

over 3 years ago

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Ginny Cobbett, Digital Project Manager at Bupa UK

Another interesting angle on this was covered last week in Smashing Magazine's article 'There is no Mobile Internet'. In particular they quoted a study that shows 1 in 3 mobile users will choose to view a desktop version rather that a mobile optimised version of a website.

(I checked - our site stats support this trend.)

To me, that's pretty telling. It suggests that 30% of mobile users would rather deal with a poor experience in order to get to the 'full' content of a site than be satisfied with a mobile-friendly view, and that some approaches to mobile optimised sites don't completely fulfill mobile users' needs.

Something else to consider when deciding your mobile strategy.

over 3 years ago

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Lorenzo Vasini

Hi Clair, nicely written article that eally sums up the general landscape There's no avoiding this shift from desktop to mobile, even though as Ginny says 1/3 of users still want the full site. I think as the experiences we create on these devices gets better, that need will gradually disappear. Something we're focussing on is using adaptive principles, which are anchored in Responsive, but take it a stage further by factoring in the touch gestures possible on tablets and smartphones. Building with deskstop intelligence with smartphone UI is our approach to the future of web design.

over 3 years ago

Robert McWhirter

Robert McWhirter, Browser London

Hey Ginny, it turns out that the stat in question was collected back in 2011, so actually quite out of date. It would be great to see some stats for 2013, one would hope that as the industry matures and user experiences get better, we'd see less users opting out, just as Lorenzo alludes to.

Content parity is a big part of this, and something that has come on leaps and bounds in the past couple of years as designers have concentrated on a ‘one web’ approach. Brad Frost writes a nice article on this that's worth looking at: http://bradfrostweb.com/blog/mobile/content-parity/

As businesses and designers increasingly turn to a one web strategy, I think it’s likely that the ‘view full site’ option will completely disappear. As one of our designers put it (having a chat with him this morning): ‘if you're doing responsive web design properly, you don't need one. If anything, 'mobile first' RWD will become even more central.’

over 3 years ago

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Ginny Cobbett

Hi Robert - the stats may be from 2011, but the trend is still supported by our site analytics, so I wouldn't dismiss them altogether.

For those sites out there that have already adopted a 'mobile lite' version of desktop (like ours), I expect this will continue to be the case. My point was - it is another piece of evidence to support our growing understanding that mobile users' expectations are no different to desktop users - they are the same.

I wholeheartedly agree that RWD is the holy grail to pursue, however if your site has an exiting array of web apps, functions, tools and forms like ours does - then implementing RWD is a major undertaking, not to be taken lightly. Businesses must still rationalise how much exiting functionality needs to be responsive to enhance the experience.

I'm an advocate - but a pragmatic one!

over 3 years ago

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