In 2013, the percentage of adult cellphone owners in the U.S. hit 91% and among them, 64% were using smartphones (Android 53%, iOS 40%). With nearly two-thirds of the country having access to a wealth of information, media and knowledge literally at their fingertips, we are at the tipping point where the landscape of personal computing is shifting. A world where the majority’s computing is performed on mobile devices is a world where information technology firms need to be ready to meet the challenge of designing, developing and testing these platforms effectively – with value and quality of experience in mind.
Is your business ready to meet that challenge?
Less Phone, More Information
According to data from the 2013 Experian Marketing Services Study, Americans who own smartphones use them for an average of 58 minutes per day. Of that time, only 26% is spent talking on the phone – the remaining 74% is divided amongst Texting, Social Networking, Browsing, Email and Gaming. It’s clear that phones have become a lot less about talking and a lot more about sharing and altering information. On top of all texting, email, media streaming and web browsing, I currently use my phone to control my thermostat, turn on and off my lights, and close my garage door. There might be a point in the not-too-distant future where we start thinking of our smartphones for what they really are: cordless cloud-connected screens.
The Shift Has Begun
Web traffic origination can be a useful metric for determining personal computing habits – after all, most applications we use have some sort of internet-related component. According to the Monetate 2013 E-commerce Quarterly Report, from Q1 2012 to Q1 2013, traffic origination from mobile devices across the web shot up from 10% to 21%.
Twenty percent is a big chunk of traffic, but it’s still not the majority. Perhaps there’s more going on here than meets the eye. We must consider the fact that ‘web traffic’ in these reports is measured in the bandwidth sent and received. ‘Traditional’ websites use more bandwidth than their mobile counterparts, mostly for the sake of filling up screen real-estate to maximize ad-revenue. Mobile website and app designers are compelled to be efficient in the bandwidth their sites use because of capped data plans and relatively limited processing power. In fact, ghacks.net recommends “faking the user-agent string” of your browser – causing websites on a desktop computer to display the mobile version instead, in order to speed up browsing. The take home here is that we may soon find ourselves in a world where people are performing a majority of their computing on mobile devices, even while ‘traditional’ computing is still able to take a larger swath of apparent web traffic.
User-Base Feeds Innovation Feeds User-Base
An accelerating process of more mobile apps and websites, increased functionalities in existing mobile platforms, and increased mobile users is already underway. As of 2013, 55% of businesses have mobile-specific websites or apps according to the Adobe Digital Marketing Optimization Survey. This number has increased as mobile device users has increased, due in large part to an ever-loud voice from users demanding rich experiences and functionality. All of this additional functionality will inevitably appeal to even more mobile device adopters, leading to a self-sustaining cycle of attractive functionality compelling user-base growth which in turn compels even more functionality and better experiences.
Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight
Let’s be clear – a majority of users are still accessing their information in the traditional way – with a mouse and keyboard. Not unlike walking to a store, the user shows up and comes right in; they don’t even need a place for their shoes. But, as more users are switching to mobile devices, imagine it somewhat like users switching to driving automobiles to get to where they want to go. If a business doesn’t have a parking space waiting for them when they arrive, they’re going to go somewhere else. Similarly, if it doesn’t have a rich and relevant mobile website or application waiting for them, the user will go elsewhere out of sheer frustration. Businesses which refuse to have accommodating experiences for their users are going to continue to lose customers, while winners will be found amongst those that do.
Looking For Creativity, Intuition, and Synthesis
So what will this mean for the Software Development Lifecycle and the Software Business in general? Business Analysts will need to become increasingly more creative in order to figure out how to design requirements in which more functionality from their traditional websites or applications can carry over to the mobile space. Software Quality Analysts will need to keep a keen eye on the bigger picture – with which all aspects and design of mobile websites and applications come together into a cohesive, unified, and functional experience. Finally, Developers will need to rely heavily on the wealth of tools available for creating HTML5 websites which can easily be converted into mobile applications, as well as the tools readily available for creating responsive-design-based websites which are synthesized to work appropriately across desktops, tablets and smartphones.
Josh Sawyers is a Consultant II at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Please feel free to contact Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss mobile application.