Moving towards mobile

I’m working in India at the moment. Of course, I’m trying to drink in the culture, but this isn’t a holiday so my mind is mostly on work. However, I couldn’t help noticing something. In India, it seems like everyone has a smartphone.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to me to see a smartphone in everyone’s hand, as India has been earmarked for massive economic growth. Even so, I imagine my own cultural biases were at play here. Actually visiting India has prompted me to directly address those biases, and doing so has given me huge food for thought in the process.

Getting a website ready for desktop, laptop and tablet-based browsing is usually the first thing on the agenda when thinking about web and application development. Get on any commuter train in the UK and you’ll see a range of smartphones, laptops and tablets being used for various work and entertainment purposes.

But what if the market is heading in a different direction? What if over the course of a few years, a large and growing percentage of global internet access will be via smartphone rather than through PC or tablet screens?

That would truly count as a paradigm shift, and it looks like it is happening.

In recent years, the rate of desktop and laptop sales has begun to slow down. At the same time, the rate of tablet sales is growing tremendously. This is pretty obvious stuff in mature markets like the UK and USA, but in regions like Africa and Asia mobile internet browsing is already becoming the norm (12.9% and 18% page views from mobile devices respectively, compared to 5.1% in Europe).

As we anticipate growth in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, so too should we anticipate more interaction with those markets via smartphones as the populations of those countries bypass what Europe and the US would consider to be traditional computing tools (such as PCs, laptops and tablets) and head straight for smartphones instead.

The move towards increased smartphone interactions is likely to cause a lot of headaches for web and application designers and developers, particularly as there is a push in the opposite direction – towards internet TVs – which will make it important to present a cohesive browsing experience across multiple platforms and screen sizes, from tiny handheld devices, to huge widescreen TVs.

Organisations that ditch their previously held biases – towards desktop-based browsing, for example – and which recognise and address changes in customer habits as they are developing are much more likely to succeed in a global economy. Conversely, relying upon an assumption that most of your potential customers are sitting at a desk somewhere in Europe, or using a laptop or tablet computer, will act as a strong disincentive for potential customers of your products and services in other markets.

Making a geographically appropriate investment in smartphone-centric experiences for customers – wherever they are based globally – will better position organisations to take advantage of new and growing markets over the next 5 to 10 years.

This article was first published on the Internet World blog here.

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