Going mobile at Flow
The Flow web development team is currently going through a major transition to “mobile first” thinking in terms of design, programming and content.
Why mobile first? Across many of the sites we develop and manage, mobile and tablet visitor numbers are rising steeply, combining to about 35% to 45% of all traffic (up from about 10% to 15% in 2012).
Social media is one of the large drivers of this trend, with most social media interactions now occurring on mobile devices. Other reasons include better devices and faster and cheaper internet for mobile users, both locally and abroad.
This means that before the end of 2015, many of our clients’ websites will be viewed more on mobile devices than on desktop machines.
Below are some of the ways we are responding to this new reality.
Responsive design by default
Every website we build is now responsive. We don’t see it as an “add-on” anymore; it is now an intrinsic part of our development process. Responsive websites adapt to the size of the device that you’re using. The result is that the website looks great on any size of mobile, tablet or desktop device.
A good example of a responsive site is the Reunion Island blog we recently launched. If you make your browser window smaller, you will see the site automatically adapt to the size of the screen.
In the traditional web development process, mobile was seen as the last step: build the desktop-based site and then adapt it to the mobile version. Today, mobile comes first, and not just because it’s likely to become the dominant form of web browsing.
Designing for mobile first forces us to consider the core content and functionality of the website. If you can solve the usability and site architecture at the mobile stage, the desktop version follows naturally.
Not that mobile and desktop code differ significantly – the variations we do for the desktop version of the site amount to less than 10% of the site code.
Backing mobile web over native apps
We believe in the power of the mobile web. Native apps (those are mobile apps that you install through an app store on the respective platform) are currently faster and more feature-rich than their mobile web counterparts. But we’re seeing the gap closing every day, with more phone features – such as geolocation and the phone’s camera – being made available to mobile browsers.
The benefit of mobile web is that the app is instantly accessible (no store download needed), indexable by Google and still viewable on a desktop device. See, for instance, our recent build of the St Stithians Easter Festival website and our dedicated mobile app for the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.
Using mobile stats to drive future decisions
Google Analytics enables us to understand trends in mobile. Below are May 2014 stats from a selection of websites we maintain:
|Destination marketing organisation||55.23%||35.20%||9.57%|
What types of devices do mobile users use? iOS (Apple’s operating system) and Android dominate with about 60% of the market, with Blackberry in steep decline (14%) and the Windows Phone hardly making an impression (about 1% to 2%).
In 12 to 24 months, your website will most probably be getting more traffic from mobile users than from desktop users. Is your website geared for this? We’re ready to help you make the change – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss upgrading your current site or building a new one for the mobile future.