2014- Year of the Mobile Revolution

You may have already seen the above chart from Comscore, or at least are familiar with the web’s transformation over the past decade that resulted in mobile web consumption eclipsing desktop consumption last year. The rise in mobile web consumption has highlighted a need for digital organizations to focus on optimizing mobile web performance. 

Below are six reasons why your mobile performance matters more now than ever before (besides the fact that just more people are visiting your web property). The characteristics and variability of mobile devices make mobile UX even more challenging.

Here is a brief list of some of the challenges that mobile engineers face when designing for mobile:

  1. Limited CPU/RAM – While the original iPhone had more computing power than the Apollo 11, the iPhone 6s Plus still has far less computing power than a decent laptop computer.
  2. Minimal screen size and varied orientation – Four inches is an incredibly tiny amount of visual real estate on which to produce your message, navigation, and total customer experience.
  3. User interaction – We use our thumbs and fingers rather than a highly-tuned pointing device (AKA a mouse), and we stuff these devices in our pockets, purses, and backpacks.
  4. Slower connection – Five bars of connection is great when you have it, but web property owners cannot predict the quality of the user’s connection to the internet.
  5. Intermittent connection – When designing Uber, Matt Ranney, chief systems architect, and his team built solutions with the expectation that the networks will drop occasionally. He understands that even when the best of connections is available, we still rely on the physical properties of RF connectivity, which, while it has improved, remains ever changing as we move, drive, or compete for bandwidth at large events.
  6. Context / location – When we consume web content on a desktop PC, we’re most often stationary. The opposite is true on mobile, and when we search or utilize geo technology, our location is primary to the user experience. Mobile users expect your web property to know where they are and provide a contextual experience.

As the 2 lines in the the Comscore chart continue to diverge, the performance of the devices we carry with us at all times will indeed improve, but every organization with a mobile presence must assume the lowest common denominator when testing and optimizing for mobile web performance. In other words, we cannot afford to assume that everyone has a brand new iPhone 6s Plus when they visit our mobile responsive website. On the contrary, the chart below from Localytics demonstrates that, as of September 2015, 60% of iPhone users do not have a 6 or 6 Plus.

iPhone Device Share

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger saw the importance of mobile performance as a first priority when they launched Instagram back in 2010. They were right to do so, and the digital world has continued to move in the direction that they took early on: design and build for mobile first.