The mobile web was king in 2015. According to Forbes Magazine, 2015 was “The Year of the Mobile Web.” Google made it an initiative to accelerate users’ mobile web experiences and announced that mobile searches surpassed desktop and laptop searches in 2015. This was, without doubt, the year the mobile platform took over as the primary area of emphasis for the lion’s share of content providers.
A Fashionably Late Declaration
However, public declarations of 2015 as “the Year of the Mobile Web,” and the web design industry shifting to a “mobile-first” mindset, don’t make for a conclusive argument that 2015 was the year mobile took over in the mind of the user. As far as the audience is concerned, mobile web took over considerably earlier. According to a comScore study, mobile apps and the mobile web combined for an astounding 60 percent of all Internet media consumption time back in 2014. Mobile web traffic actually overtook desktop traffic as early as June 2013. A poorly performing mobile website is a bigger problem in 2015 than it was in 2013, but it was still a major problem back then too.
However, those statistics are engagement rates–meaning they identify behavior for the most active users, but not the typical user. CNN reported in January of 2014 that a greater share of Americans were connecting to the Internet with smartphones and tablets than personal computers for the first time ever. The early mobile web traffic surge stems from the proliferation of social media apps on mobile devices. However, as time goes on, mobile web users are starting to embrace other functions outside of apps and using tools like search engines with higher frequency than on traditional computers.
Google took notice of the change in traffic in 2015 and adjusted how their algorithm worked to emphasize mobile-friendly websites in search results to accommodate the audience. The company introduced its Mobile-Friendly Test tool to help steer mobile websites toward designs that perform better on mobile devices.
Planning Ahead: A Content Creation Success Story
Many websites anticipated the mobile takeover–or at least considered mobile too big of a portion of the audience to ignore before 2015. In order to accommodate the traffic shift to mobile without neglecting the desktop site experience, content creators have embraced a different kind of web user interface called responsive web design, which changes how a website’s content displays based on the visitor’s screen size. Mashable actually declared 2013 the “Year of Responsive Web Design” back when mobile only made up 30 percent of their web traffic.
There is a bit of disparity between content creators and the audience as to when the mobile web took over. It was statistically apparent that mobile web traffic was quickly going to displace the traditional web as the primary website traffic driver years in advance, because the number of mobile device users grew much faster than the number of personal computer owners. While desktop traffic continues to grow, mobile traffic is growing at a much faster rate. Since both platforms are growing, it’s important for content providers to realize that just because the mobile web has taken over, that does not mean it’s an all-clear to start neglecting traditional websites.
In the end, you could argue that 2015 was or wasn’t the year “mobile took over”–depending on the point of view. Suffice it to say that if if mobile did not take over in 2015, it took over much sooner.