Mobile users need an easy-to-navigate, light-weight web sites that adapt to their mobile browsers format and navigation abilities.

If you want to stay competitive on the new mobile internet you need to give mobile users what they need.

Some Mobile Usage Facts:

  1. Canadian smartphone usage increased significantly from 33% in March 2011 to 48% in March 2012. Smartphone usage is universal across all age groups, and across Canada. (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association)
  2. Global internet usage will more than double by 2015, and most users will be mobile. (Boston Consulting Group, Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins, Morgan Stanley Research, Berg Insight via Business Insider)
  3. Adults spend more media time on mobile devices than newspapers and magazines combined. (eMarketer December 2011)
  4. 61% of customers who visit a mobile unfriendly site will go to a mobile-friendly competitor’s site. (Karim Temsamani at IABALM 2012 via IAB)
  5. QR code scans increased 300% in 2011 over 2010. (ScanLife)

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Types of Mobile Devices

  1. Feature phones (older cellphones) with tiny screens can only display text and input text using the numeric keypad. Their numbers are decreasing.
  2. Smartphones, usually with a mid-sized screen and a full A-Z keypad.
  3. Touch-screen phones such as the iPhone, and Android phones with a larger screen and an interface operated by touch gestures. Text input is done through an onscreen keyboard.
  4. Tablet computers which are operated solely by touch or by detachable keyboard and come in 7" and 10" formats

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Canadian Mobile and Tablet Use Statistics

Smart phone use is increasing exponentially in Canada

A study commissioned by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association states that "the increase in the use of smartphones compared to 2011 was a national phenomenon."* 26 million – nearly 75 percent of Canadians own a mobile phone. Of those mobile phone owners, 48 percent own a smartphone.

* "2012 Cell Phone Consumer Attitudes Study", Page 17-18, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association/Quorus Consulting Group 2012 (PDF)

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Data Plans

"The use of mobile phone data plans also increased compared to 2011, from nearly 4 in 10 cell phone users in 2011 to nearly 5 in 10."* This means more Canadian users are willing to go to mobile websites to view content, download apps and receive text-message notifications.

* "2012 Cell Phone Consumer Attitudes Study", Page 19, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association/Quorus Consulting Group 2012 (PDF)

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"Tablet ownership among cell phone users has quadrupled, increasing from 5% in 2011 to 20% in 2012."* Tablet ownership is highest among the 18 to 34 year old age group with an income of at least $60K. Tablets can connect to the internet using Wi-Fi or through a cellular network.

* "2012 Cell Phone Consumer Attitudes Study", Page 21-23, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association/Quorus Consulting Group 2012 (PDF)

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What do mobile users do on the internet?

They want quick information like:

  • news, weather, sports scores or stocks,
  • business hours of service, location, schedules, phone numbers,
  • directions or information needed in an emergency,
  • use social networking sites and forums,
  • online shopping,
  • checking order status,
  • price comparison,
  • and online banking.

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What do mobile users do with apps?

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association has found 70% of Canadian smartphone users have downloaded apps, an increase from March 2011 at 58%. These are the most commonly used apps on smartphones;

  • find weather information,
  • access and post to social networks,
  • access travel, public transit, mapping or navigation information,
  • view YouTube videos,
  • play arcade, puzzles, action and casino games,
  • read regional, national or international news,
  • read sports news and scores,
  • read health, fitness or wellness information or use apps with related functionality,
  • read magazines or view apps related to TV networks or TV shows,
  • view retail stores or shopping,
  • and read cooking or gardening information or use apps with related functionality.
* "2012 Cell Phone Consumer Attitudes Study", Page 45-46, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association/Quorus Consulting Group 2012 (PDF)

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How to Create Mobile-friendly Websites

Mobile-friendly sites require a distilled, less complex approach to presenting your content, navigation and functionality.

A mobile-friendly web site can be;

  • instantly accessible to mobile users via the internet – there is no app installation required,
  • updated instantly using an open-source CMS or by uploading new content to the web server,
  • found quickly using search engines,
  • shared and tagged by site visitors using social media,
  • always available to the user, unlike an app that can be uninstalled from a phone.

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Large paragraphs of wordy text are hard to read on a small screen. Content should contain the most relevant points. Edit your content scrupulously. It will communicate your message more effectively.

  1. keep your desktop site core content the same
  2. make it load quickly,
  3. eliminate unnecessary images,
  4. provide the most important content first.

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Since mobile phones are smaller they need a web page layout that can be viewed comfortably on a smaller screen. You also need to consider that interface actions like:

  • moving the cursor,
  • scrolling up or down,
  • clicking on a button,
  • entering text in a form,
  • or opening another window (many mobile browsers won't do this)

can make interacting with a desktop formatted webpage a painful experience for a mobile phone user.

Mobile users are often standing up and walking around or driving, and sometimes just scanning their handset or tablet quickly while waiting to do something else. Smartphones are usually held in one hand while tablets are operated with two hands.

Download times for web pages, graphics and photos to mobile devices are slower on the lower bandwidth mobile networks. Not only will large images and graphics not show well on a small screen, they will take a long time to download. Not all mobile users have unlimited data plans and browsing a data-heavy site can cost money.

If the user knows of a competing mobile-friendly site she'll go there instead. You've lost a potential customer that will never come back.

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Further Reading

Ten Tips for Creating Engaging Mobile Experiences: Functionality and Design for Mobile Commerce from the Oracle website.

Our Mobile Planet Canada, a presentation from the Google GoMo site with Canadian information and statistics about smart phone use in Canada.

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