2010: Tipping point for mobile web

The hype and popularity of iPhones (as well as Blackberrys and Android-based devices) has thrown smartphones and the mobile internet into the mainstream. For most, if not all, of the previous decade the mobile web was an niche thing, something that most companies completely (and safely) ignored. It’s no longer a niche market, and for a increasing number of markets it can’t be ignored.

148% increase in 2009

In Quantcast’s 2009 mobile web trends report they show that mobile web usage has again more than doubled, just as it did in 2007 and 2008. Mobile internet usage still only accounts for 1.26% of global web usage, but at the rapid rate it is increasing many web sites will be seeing 1 in 10 visits being made via handheld devices in the not too distant future.

Graph taken from the Quantcast report

Google Trends

The explosion in mobile web can be further underpinned by Google Trends. Here is a graph generated from the number of searches made for five leading smartphones related keywords (iPhone, Android, HTC, Pre, Blackberry).

graph from Google Trends

How does your site fair?

When your target audience comes into contact with your web presence via a handheld device, it’s a significantly different experience for a number of obvious reasons – the most significant two being screen size, and in many situations and applications; speed.

Different surfing process

Technological limitations aside, the entire surfing process is re-written forcing mobile internet users to adopt different searching and browsing strategies to those they would employ when browsing via their regular Internet connection.

40% of mobile page views not Apple

One such change to the surfing process is the use of applications to deliver content that would normally be viewed on a website, accessed via a web browser. Given Apple’s market share, It’s not bad thing, but It’s worth highlighting that fulfilling your mobile web strategy by an iPhone application alone, may not be cost effective or optimal. A more open and generic solution may suit your target audience(s) better. Globally, 40% of mobile web page views are not from Apple handheld devices. That’s a big chunk of the market to ignore.

Graph taken from the Quantcast report

Nokia wears the crown in India

In some regions, the size of the non-apple mobile web is even greater. In India, where there is a lower penetration of fixed line telecommunication services, Apple are in a distant second place to Nokia in terms of share of mobile web.

Graph taken from the Quantcast report

Different goals

Once in contact with your web presence, mobile web visitors will also want to achieve different things compared to visitors to the full-blown version. Some content will be more relevant, perhaps content such as opening times, price comparison, location based information. Many of these trends have been highlighted in a recent report from Compete.

Given this difference in what visitors want to achieve, even if you have provided a carefully crafted mobile web version of your site – how will they find it? Your site is almost certainly optimised for (non-mobile) visitors and their associated goals. This raises the issue of balancing mobile and standard SEO and SEM.

That is a whole new blog post of it’s own.

Start planning now!

2010 is the year that the mobile web will reach tipping point. The iPhone is the catalyst that we’ve spent a decade waiting for. But whilst the iPhone is a trend, the wide-scale adoption of the mobile web is a permanent change. Start planing now! 1.26% of the browsing-world is probably already ahead of you.