Girding for when mobile becomes No. 1

In today’s social-media economy, with social media and mobile browsing on the rise, the platform of usability is changing. People are spending more time on their phones and other mobile devices than ever before. They are using smartphones to plan travel routes, watch movies, pay their bills and one-touch shop in an expanding mobile marketplace. The pressure on companies to make compatible websites across all of these platforms is beginning to resonate in the tech-marketing industry. No longer are users confined to an in-home desktop for their browsing pleasure; smartphones, tablets and wireless networks have opened up the Web to 24-hour-a-day access anywhere the user can travel.

According to smartinsghts.com, an estimated 1.08 billion people around the world have a smartphone, and by 2014, mobile internet usage will surpass desktop usage as the primary way people browse the Internet. Marketing has become more individualized, and more immediate than ever before. Web pages have created special phone-read tags and QR codes to guide users from their product to their Web pages, in order to create a constant cycle of information.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average person spends 2.7 hours a day socializing on their mobile device, an estimate that doesn’t even include the hours being used for research, locational information and business calls. The shift towards mobile formatting is becoming more important than ever.

Numerous sites, ranging from Facebook, CNN and MSNBC all the way to banks and insurance companies, have begun recreating their Web content to be mobile compatible and user friendly. This compatibility means an easier time surfing, browsing and shopping for smartphone and tablet users.

Why is mobile compatibility important? With an increasing population accessing these sites through mobile appliances like smartphones, tablets and netbooks, companies who cater to these particular platforms are investing in a large, reachable market. Scottish-American website Mashable.com, which monitors and reports on new and upcoming social media and technology, recently revamped its entire site by investing time and money into easily accessible formats to fight whatever device its users browse on. The goal was to make their site images more attractive by taking a magazine high-resolution approach, while scaling the images to load quickly on mobile devices. Mobile browsing currently makes up about 30 percent of its website traffic, and the numbers are growing.

Companies are also beginning to integrate cross-platform social media sites into the main structure of their own Web pages. This means companies are encouraging users to post “microcontent” such as comments via the user’s Facebook account, as well as videos and photos from Youtube and Instagram to share among their friends in order to create a larger, more cohesive community of conversation. Businesses want to know what their customers think and how to most effectively reach their desired demographics.

Companies have been forced to get creative in their design when a user is browsing on a 4 inch screen, as opposed to the 16 inches of the common laptop. Keyboard usage is being kept to a minimum, and large tabs, icons and apps are becoming the predominant way users select and drive their browsing experience.

The future of Web browsing is no longer confined to an at-home desktop. Users are finding more mobile ways to access their growing need for information in the global marketplace, as well as new ways to share it with their families, peers and business networks. Websites and companies willing to invest in the mobile market will see their traffic continue to grow in a population always on the move.

Caroline Veldman is the owner of Social Media Pilots in Fort Collins. She can be reached at caroline@socialmediapilots.com.

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