Why It's Essential to Put Your Business in the Palm of Your Customers’ Hands

An image of a mobile device 'driving' a car.

There are businesses out there that treat mobile is an afterthought. At best, they'll provide a stripped-down version of their main site for use in mobile environments; at worst, they'll simple ignore that market and try to shoehorn their existing site onto a small screen.

Anecdotally, we can see the rise of mobile technology – just walk along any street and you'll see countless people, staring into the palm of their hands. But there is compelling, empirical evidence that should cause you to re-evaluate your mobile strategy.

The U.S.-based Pew Research centre performs an annual study that looks at what they define as Cell Internet Use. A cell Internet user is defined as "anyone who uses their cell phone to access the Internet or use e-mail."

That their numbers are growing is no surprise; that a significant – and growing – proportion of them are using their mobile devices as their primary tool for on-line browsing may be.

The 2012 Pew Cell Internet Use Study found that "17 per cent of cell phone owners* do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than a computer or other device."

This year, the 2013 edition of the Pew Cell Internet Use Study, which was released last month, found that number is 21 per cent – over one-fifth of all users.

The study found that this behaviour was spread throughout the demographic spectrum. Young adults, non-whites, and those with relatively low income and education are particularly likely to be cell-mostly Internet users. That said, both college-educated and those with households earning $75K + are higher cell Internet users.

For some it's for convenience; for others the cell phone represents their only on-line access.

Last year, 88 per cent of U.S. adults had a cell phone of some kind; this year, it's 91 per cent. Last year, 55 per cent said they went on-line using their phone; this year it's 57 per cent. And since 2009 the proportion of cell owners who have used their phones to go on-line has doubled.

Factor in that, according to this study – with the usual room for statistical variance – shows that 56 per cent of all American adults own a smart phone (of which 93 per cent use it to go on-line) and the growth trajectory is clear.

So, do you still think mobile isn't worth your time, effort, or attention?

According to the International Telecommunication Union's latest global technology development figures, globally, there are nearly seven billion mobile cellular subscriptions. Which is impressive when you consider, globally, there are just over seven billion people. So it stands to reason that this isn't a passing fancy or a fad. In the Americas alone there are 460 million mobile broadband subscriptions, representing a 48 per cent penetration rate. In Europe, the penetration is even greater (68 per cent). By the end of this year, the ITU expects more than two billion mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide.

And that's just the start. As access and technology get cheaper, this market is only going to grow.

Mobile's here to stay. And the benefits for designing a responsive or adaptive site go beyond simply allowing people the opportunity to access your content.

Focusing on mobile first means that you have to prioritize your content. You have to ensure that the messaging is concise, intuitive, and easily accessible. Basically, you want to put the good stuff in a premium location so that your viewers can access it right away. It's just good content strategy, which should be incentive enough to think mobile, but the global trend towards mobile access of Web content should seal the deal.

It's no longer a nice-to-have. It's a must-have. If you want to ensure your business is growing, you've got to be where your customers are. And it's increasingly clear that your customers are on the move – all the more reason to go mobile, first.

Now I turn it over to you. Do you think mobile first in your Web design? Or are you resisting? When you browse on your mobile device, what do you think of sites that aren't responsive? Does it colour your opinion of the brand?

*Please note that all the statistics from this study are American. Canadian behaviour may vary, but likely not that significantly.

Questions Answered

Should I make my site responsive?

Why should I make my site mobile?

How many people access the Internet through their cells?

How important is mobile Web development?

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