I have a confession to make. As I type this, I’m ashamed just thinking about it. I finally joined the 21st Century in 2013. What I mean by that is I bought my first iPhone only a year ago. I’m sure your eyes are popping out of their sockets right now and you’re thinking, “Carey Tucker?! The self-proclaimed king of digital marketing theory?! How could this be?!” However, you’ll be relieved to know that I haven’t looked back since.
I’ll admit it; I was stubborn. I was convinced that a phone’s sole purpose was one-on-one communication and consequently, I only needed a device that could make calls and send texts. I watched my peers miss chunks of conversation with their eyes perpetually fixed downward, in a stupid gaze with their smartphone. I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted to live life, gosh darn it, and I didn’t need some silly screen to do it! What I discovered after purchasing Apple’s flagship product is that it became my go-to resource for almost everything.
The case for mobile optimization feels about as cliché as it gets in 2014. The first smartphone was introduced 20 years ago when IBM partnered up with BellSouth to release the Simon Personal Communicator. Smartphones as we know them (touch screen, entertainment-focused, etc.) have been around ever since the release of the Apple iPhone in 2007. Moreover, after attempting to do my best Sarah Koenig from the Serial Podcast, I discovered that sites were becoming “mobile friendly” as early as 2006. But, I’m not here to recycle the notion of mobile optimization. I’m here to advocate mobile first design. And here’s why.
By now, I’m sure you don’t know many people like the 2013 version of myself. Even grandmas have smartphones and are taking selfies just like your teenage daughter. If you think there isn’t much room for smartphone growth in 2015, think again. The worldwide smartphone market grew 27.2% year over year in the second quarter of 2014 and the total volume of sales is expected to reach 1.3 billion units for 2014, according to a study by IDC. Android phones accounted for the majority of sales and Samsung is still the largest vendor. Where are the bulk of sales going? Developing countries.
If you’re reading this in Atlanta or any other major North American city, you probably feel that practically everyone you know has an iPhone. When looking at the the figures above and the graph below, Apple’s market share might surprise you. Yet, the reality is consumers in today’s global economy, especially in Asia and perhaps most significantly in China, are choosing more affordable options. The suggested retail of an iPhone 6 in China is $863, while the price of a Xiaomi Mi4 is $380. LG read the writing on the wall and because of their low-cost strategy, they pushed their quarterly sales volume past 15 million units for the first time in their company’s history.
With so many consumers in developing countries choosing affordable smartphone options, the reality is their Internet usage will be done almost exclusively on mobile devices. If you want to be a forward thinking company, think about this. Take a country like China. It has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people and almost 500 million smartphone users. Roughly 20% of the world’s population is Chinese and three out of every 10 smartphone users are Chinese. Factor in the ease of opening a handheld browser from anywhere with a cell signal or wifi connection and you realize that your brand’s site needs to be designed for mobile first. If mobile is an afterthought or even secondary for you, prepare to fall into obscurity.
I spoke with our product and technology guru, Jeremy Haile, to get his thoughts on mobile first web development.
“Mobile usage continues to rise worldwide as a percentage of traffic. In the past year alone, our mobile visitors have grown from 43% to 55% – overtaking our desktop usage. It’s amazing to me how many businesses continue to provide a poor mobile user experience. It is more important than ever to optimize for “mobile-first” when you are designing your website. This is particularly true for capturing the critical millennial generation, 81% of which own smart phones in the US.”