Mobile is now more important than desktop (I posit). You only have to look at Google’s recent changes to see that change is irrevocably afoot. 

Tom Loosemore, Deputy Director at GDS, pondered yesterday whether a significant landmark, mobile devices bringing more traffic than laptops and PCs, is near.

There’s some great stuff in his blog and I thought I’d have a look around to find some additional evidence and perhaps even make the bold claim that mobile traffic is already in the majority!

See what you think and I’d love you to add some stats from your own site to the comments below, allowing us to make a more reasoned evaluation still.

From Tom’s GDS blog:

  • More people access iPlayer on tablet than computer.
  • Since 1 January 2014,  63% of visits to GOV.UK have come from a computer,23% from a mobile and 14% from a tablet.
  • In January 2012 it was 77% computer, 15% mobile and 9% tablet.
  • Christmas Day 2013, when so-called 'computer power visitors' are not online, saw only 51% of visitors to GOV.UK from a computer, compared with 66% on Christmas Day 2012.


All this means that GDS is designing for all devices, with the rationale that people new to the web will be best served by simplified designs that suit mobile.

Interestingly, and a breath of fresh air:

Stand-alone mobile apps will only be considered once the core web service works well on mobile devices, and if specifically agreed with the Cabinet Office.

From retailers:

Retail is where I expect tablets to make the most significant land grab.

As we can see from the stats below, it’s already happened in many cases and was a trend also for Christmas 2012.

IBM reported mobile traffic grew to 58% of all Boxing Day online traffic. 

Smartphones were the source of more traffic than tablets, with 29.9% and 28% respectively and sales completed via mobile devices exceeded 45% of total online sales.

John Lewis

The caring Hare-and-Bear department store reported an impressive Christmas Day for mobile, accounting for 75% of total traffic.

Perhaps this shows that work computer use is a significant portion of computer web traffic and that if you’re targeting a mobile demographic – non-working parents for example – you should definitely have a tablet-optimised solution in retail.

From services:

Let’s look at some stats for provided by Tecmark.

  Jan-Jul 2013 Jan-Jul 2012
Visits 195,524,673 104,775,436
Mobile Visits 98,954,526 (50.61%) 75,614,541 (72.17%)

Although this data shows proportion of mobile visits (which includes tablets) to have declined from 2012 to 2013, the proportion of visits is more than 50% for the past two years.

The decline may be due to users being able to find what they need first time, sometimes on other NHS URLs like NHS Direct’s website, or using apps such as their symptom checker (a NHS direct domain).

Change has happened?

Google’s advertising business has certainly been boosted by the increase in mobile, with Youtube receiving 40% of traffic from mobile.

With 55% of companies reportedly having a mobile optimised site, perhaps the tipping point has been reached when the adaptive website becomes simply the website?

Ben Davis

Published 9 January, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Ben, personally, I've never been convinced by the classification of tablet as mobile, it sometimes feels like the two are lumped together to make "mobile" bigger.

User behaviour is demonstrably different between tablets and mobiles. People on tablets typically spend more, convert better and aren't browsing on the go, they are engaging in a "lean back" way. Mobile behaviour is "lean forward", on the go. That being said, mobile conversion is up year on year.

I'd say Google's attitude is similar, if you look at enhanced campaigns, mobile is quite different from (desktop+tablet).

Even without combining the two, we're still approaching a major crossing point. Taking us an example, smartphone traffic will be greater than desktop traffic by August this year. On Christmas day we had 6% more traffic from mobile than desktop.

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


I can't disagree. I've got a new iPad Air and specifically didn't get a cellular one, because I knew I'd be 'leaning back' as you so nicely put it.

Thanks for your stats. Great stuff!

over 4 years ago


Jonathan Richards

From what we are seeing on the analytics we deal with handheld devices together (mobile AND tablet) are definitely tied with desktop. So much so that I've seen Safari take over IE as top browser die to the combined desktop/mobile use.

Predictions are dangerous but I'd put my money on a majority of sites becoming like apps (which is what a very good adaptive site feels like). Stripped down navigation, push button functionality and greater use of touch and our senses (movement, voice, etc.) to navigate and perform function. Wearable tech will also probably demand the use of boiled down navigation, predictive AI and hassle free integration with all the devices we use.

It's such an important area for all organisations to embrace now. Thanks for the article.

over 4 years ago


Stacey Cavanagh

I agree with Stuart that tablet traffic definitely shouldn't be lumped with Smartphone.

When we were acquiring the NHS data grouped it as many other organisations we have requested this data from did as well.

Surprisingly, it seems only a handful of public organisations are separating the two out.

Across the sites we work with, tablet and smartphone combined are over half of all traffic. Smartphone without tablet, depending on industry, is anything from 25% - 40% of traffic.

Still... a phenomenal growth in a short space of time. The first time we analysed mobile traffic for our clients in September 2009, mobile made up 0.09% of traffic.

over 4 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

@ Stuart I'm completely with you on that one. Now that we've redesigned some of our websites to fit more in line with desktop performance so we've generally taken to adding them together with the proviso that typically Tablet is more of a personal use and desktop more of a work one.

I've also seen it happen myself with our home laptop dying before Christmas and being replaced with a Tablet - We still use it in near enough exactly the same way (with the only potential shift one of moving away from using our Mobiles to check things and instead using the iPad instead) suggesting rather worryingly we've just become part of the trend.

That said, we've seen a continual increase in actual Mobile traffic, if not bookings (with more of a researcher behaviour observed) YoY so there is definitely a need to be able to cater for all of the different audiences...

over 4 years ago

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