We've been using this blog space to talk about the "mobile-first revolution" for quite some time, and how it has reshaped our internal processes when we build a new website, app, or social media content plan.
As if we needed more evidence of the importance of mobile-driven development, Twitter user @BenedictEvans shared this enlightening graph earlier this week:
The numbers speak for themselves. Mobile has always been bigger; it's just that it has never had the same capabilities as PCs. Since the rise of smartphones, however, that distinction has vanished.
Another recent and very telling graphic has prompted the question, "Why are we still calling them phones?"
This is the way the world looks now. So what does this mean for you and your brand?
When mobile growth was still on the horizon, and our devices were just beginning to have Internet capability, businesses created simplified versions of their websites, usually ending in ".mobi". However, this required a whole separate site, and a way to direct mobile users to it.
These days, we follow the principle of responsive design: one website that adapts to whatever screen it is being viewed on (phone, tablet or computer), so that the content can be viewed optimally, no matter the device (see citysightseeing.co.za, aquarium.co.za and explorespain.co.za).
Focusing on a great user experience for a small, handheld screen forces you to simplify your message, your layout and your calls to action. Is your site mobile friendly yet?
Search engine optimisation
Google is a huge driver of this mobile revolution. Of course it is: Android is its mobile operating system, and most of the world's smartphones run on it:
The latest update to Google's search results algorithm places a heavy emphasis on mobile-friendliness. Your site's rank will now be rewarded if it:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
As always, your user experience requires careful consideration when catering for mobile devices.
E-commerce and calls to action
Africa leads the world when it comes to mobile payments – where "dumbphones" are still the most popular type of handset (those without data connectivity), people pay for taxi rides, shop for goods, send money home and do their banking all through an exchange of airtime.
Now, though, smartphones are gaining popularity as a method of payment. The rise of Uber in South Africa is one such example, as is the use of SnapScan at coffee shops and outdoor markets.
If you have an e-commerce element to your business, make sure it is optimised for mobile. If you are an attraction, people may buy tickets in the car on their way to you, using their phones. Make sure they can show their phone screen to gain entry instead of printing a physical ticket.
Social media networks are mostly accessed via mobile these days, and both Twitter and Facebook offer ways to provide a "Book now" button, helping you convert your social media efforts into actual sales.
These networks offer their own advertising, and along with Google's AdWords platform, are powerful ways to customise your brand's message for the small screen, and drive traffic and sales without a customer ever needing to fire up a computer to find you.
As data costs fall and the number of "digital natives" rise, video will become increasingly important as an online medium. Instagram's new video channel hints at what is to come.
The use of GIFs and emojis as a form on online communication will most likely expand, and brands will need to know how to speak that language.
Wearables have entered the mix, but like tablets before them, will likely remain a niche market for some time.
In the meanwhile, there seems to be no stopping the growth of affordable, Android-powered smartphones in Africa and other emerging markets. The world is now truly mobile – are you?