The One Necessity for 2017

By Simon Ensor
SEO , Web Design 15.01.2017

2017 is here and with it comes new revelations in the use of mobile devices. Well, not really new revelations. Far from it actually.
Simply put, this article should not come as a surprise.

If your website is already mobile optimised and your search strategy is taking mobile seriously then you can probably stop reading now. If on the off chance you are reading this without a mobile optimised site or don’t believe the hype then we highly recommend you carry on reading.

Ever since the first iPhone made this technology widely accessible, so called ‘smartphones’ have been on a war path to supersede our desktop computers. 2017 will not represent a year in which internet usage on mobile phones overtakes desktop – that point has already been passed. The rubicon is behind us. However, it will represent a year in which businesses and organisations who have until now buried their heads in the sand against the indomitable growth of smartphones will have to either remove their craniums from the earth and react…or suffer serious consequences. I repeat, this is not some sort of Eureka moment, the major players and individuals in the digital space have not been secretive about this. In fact they have been vocal for a considerable amount of time. Back in 2012 I was at a talk by the then CEO of WPP, Mark Read, who’s one piece of advice (without the dulcet tones of Baz Luhrmann) was to be ‘mobile ready’ and he was deadly serious. He is but one of many influential individuals who have been evangelising this point for over half a decade.

So why the sudden push?

It is not a sudden push, view it more as a final call, the digital version of last orders at the bar.

Consumers have been embracing mobiles for a number of years but there have been a number of other organisations (most notably Google) that have in the past year significantly increased their focus on mobile. Couple this with continued growth of mobile usage and 2017 represents a year in which you can no longer get away with not catering for your consumer base on mobile devices.

There is a caveat to this (but please do not use it as an excuse to delay action). The vast majority of the figures are based on overall usage. Some are split between the usage of web browsers and apps or mobile phones vs tablets but the figures are fairly generalist. There will continue to be industries, services and products where desktop traffic will represent a higher portion of overall web traffic than mobile. An example of this are products that require a higher level of investment from the consumer, i.e they cost more. Consumers are more likely to research competitors and compare pros and cons (hence them being known as ‘comparison goods’) which in turn is more suited to desktop usage. Regardless of this, there is still a very healthy portion of mobile traffic that should not be simply swept aside.


Industries have already reacted

Just because something is happening does not mean that everyone is capable of simply switching over instantly. Organisations have processes, a talent pool, existing clients, consumer confidence and a whole swathe of factors that stand in the way of just saying, “Cool, let’s go mobile tomorrow”. Rest assured though, markets are driven by necessity and this reaction has been necessary for a few years now.

We are biased because at Yellowball we design and build websites, but there has definitely been a noticeable change in web design over the past 24 months. Mobile specific websites (a.k.a mdot sites) and responsive design and development have been around for years and are a good indicator of the push towards a mobile focussed digital landscape. However, one of the biggest indicators is not the availability of mobile ready websites. It is the change in mindset for designers.

There has been a noticeable shift from designing websites that can display on mobile devices, to designing for mobiles first. This is the primary objective fuelled by necessity. The majority of traffic is on mobile so it is not acceptable for mobile designs to be an afterthought. This role reversal between mobile and desktop is epitomised by this change in attitude.

Furthermore, the mindset has already changed for clients. No longer is mobile a factor or consideration as part of a wider website project, it is more often than not their primary concern. They need only look at their Google Analytics data to verify this decision.

“Seriously though, my industry works on desktops”

Yes, many B2B websites will be accessed via desktops and some industries have adopted mobile to a lesser extent than others. If you are not already convinced of this critical crossroads bear in mind that this change in mindset in the web design and development industry will only further add fuel to the fire. The talent pool for mobile specific UX/UI designers will expand and with it so will ideas. The experience that your consumers have on mobile will only get better and better, increasing usage and the chances of you being left up the metaphorical creek without a paddle. Okay, so maybe in the next 12 months mobile does not need to be your primary focus but not being mobile friendly would be a mightily confusing decision.


Giant Helping Hand

Still not convinced that we are living in a digital age dominated by mobile? Again I am somewhat biased because SEO is my speciality but when a company that has such a strangle hold over the accessibility of content on the web decides to put mobile first…we should all listen.

2016 brought about the Mobile-Friendly Update to Google’s search engine, which became to be known as #Mobilegeddon. 2017 looks likely to bring the rollout of a momentous shift in focus for the search engine giant. Their index will primarily look at content on mobile versions of websites rather than the desktop version, referred to as mobile-first indexing. Why? Because more people are searching on mobile than desktop. The people have spoken….albeit silently hunched over their smartphones with thumbs dancing upon the gorilla glass. This is a really big change and arguably the biggest indicator recently that being mobile ready is not a pipe dream.

Google mobile search

Apps, Social and More

We have touched upon only a few of the arguments for being mobile ready, but this could go on almost indefinitely.

We have not looked at the growth of applications and how businesses are using apps to not only tap into mobile traffic but also create stronger ties with their consumer base.

We have not looked at alternative technologies such as progressive web apps, accelerated mobile pages and adaptive vs responsive websites.

We have not given evidence of the increasing breadth of demographic that are using smartphones where previously the range was well defined.

We have not looked at the further potential of smartphones or the move of other giants such as Microsoft towards more portable computers such as the Surface which will no doubt fuel the use of mobile.

So what’s your point?

If you have made it this far and you don’t know what the point is one of two things have happened. 1) I’m not a good enough writer or debater or 2) the blinkers are well and truly on.

We are not saying that you need to go and invest heavily in an unnecessary app for your business. We are not saying that you should completely ignore how your website appears on desktop computers. We are not even saying that you should scrap all of your print advertising and focus on social media.

The point is that, as of right now, if you are serious about marketing and are not able to display your business online via a mobile device, this should be considered a highly critical issue. Act now and watch your business  reap the benefits of a mobile-centric generation.

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