72% of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025.Alessandra Alari, head of search and digital user experience, Google UK, looks at why this matters.
“Smartphones. Who cares?” grumbles American standup comedian Don Rickles. “Smartphones? I only have dummy phones!”
The gag is very much on brand for the comic’s curmudgeonly style – but it’s fair to say it’s not a reflection of the attitudes of people in the modern world. If Don Rickles had, for some reason, been wandering through the illuminated halls of Mobile World Congress last week and had witnessed first hand the bendy, foldy, speedy technological wonders that are modern smartphones, he may well have changed his punchline.
Over the course of the last decade, smartphones have emerged as the connecting technology that has revolutionised how we engage with our friends, media and businesses alike. To put this into context, research from the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) found that “almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people.”
The mobile web is now the most widely used platform in the world. For billions of people wanting to chat, search, browse and shop, they simply have to reach into their pocket. Despite this monumental shift to mobile, brands still seem to be playing catch up. Today, people think mobile first – so for brands, it’s no longer enough to just have a mobile presence. The mobile experience needs to be a priority.
Comparing the findings from WARC with Google’s research into how consumers are experiencing mobile reveals a significant gap between consumer expectation and brand site performance. People expect their experiences online, and particularly on mobile, to be faster and more seamless than ever before, with 65% of UK adults using their smartphones as the primary device to go online. But although around 50% of Brits think sites should load in less than two seconds, the UK average load time is almost an abysmal nine seconds.
This lag has tangible consequences. 75% of people in the UK say that the speed it takes to load a page has the most impact on their overall experience – and 62% say they are less likely to purchase from that brand in the future if they have a negative mobile experience. A further 53% say they will leave a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load, while 50% of UK users abandon mobile transactions because of a poor experience.
It is no secret that mobile usage is massively outpacing the use of desktops. Despite this, the vast majority of web pages for mobile still offer a much weaker user experience, which is a huge factor in driving conversions. For brands, this a serious missed opportunity – there is room for lucrative business growth when you focus on delivering the speedy, seamless mobile experience that modern consumers expect. To help businesses understand, measure and benchmark their mobile site speed, Google recently released its updated Test My Site tool, which empowers businesses to invest wisely in mobile speed improvements.
Smartphones are here to stay – and the mobile web presents a remarkable opportunity for brands to be constantly available to engage and assist their customers. It’s important to remember that a slow mobile experience will drive customers away, but a fast mobile experience can help attract customers and keep them.
The good news is that speeding up your mobile site is so simple that, in the words of Don Rickles, even a dummy could do it. Here are three simple steps to ensure your mobile site loads as quickly as possible.
Identify the essentials first – Prioritise above-the-fold content over anything else. That way, users will consider your site fully loaded earlier on, and can start browsing faster. Having multiple files concerned with font, size, colour and spacing can have a big impact on site speed, so have these load later on.
Box things together – Each resource on your mobile site requires additional requests from the server, so try to group similar files together. Small images under 10KB can also be combined into a sprite format. Sprite formats allow a collection of images to be filed under a single image, reducing the amount of server requests and speeding up loading times.
By Alessandra Alari
Head of search and digital user experience