October 2016 was notable in online history as the month when mobile web access overtook desktop for the very first time. That month Statcounter, a research company recording usage across 2.5 million websites, noted that 51.3% of pages were loaded on mobile devices. To put that in perspective, the figure for 2010 was just 5%.
Having websites that display sub-optimally on mobile device is no longer acceptable, and risks driving users away from your content in favour of the competition. This is particularly true when you consider the breakdown of mobile usage, which shows 46.5% of traffic coming via smartphones and just 4.7% via tablets. This is highly significant because it means that the vast majority of mobile web users are accessing sites using a screen that is a small fraction of the size of that of their desktop Mac or PC.
It is not hard to see the appeal of accessing content via a smartphone—switching rapidly between calling, texting and browsing is very convenient. But issues can arise with the display of content. On a small touchscreen device, it is inconvenient at best and impossible at worst to scroll across a page to view complete sentences. Text should reflow to suit the device being used.
Navigating menus on a small screen can also be an issue. Mobile usage demands that the menus are in situ where and when needed, and this is particularly true for scholarly researchers moving quickly between articles—by clicking on bibliography links, for instance.
When reviewing your content site and choosing a new design or provider, it’s important to check if responsive design is available ‘out of the box’. The rapid adoption of mobile means that it is no longer an option to view responsiveness as an add-on that is available for an additional fee. From a strategic point of view, publishers should also consider where their customers are going to be coming from and what their browsing behaviour is likely to be. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa 168 million more people
will be connected by mobile services across Africa over the next five years.
One more tip: checking whether your content displays properly on the wide variety of mobile devices can be a time-consuming process, and it is unlikely that you have an example of each one to test. But a useful solution is available via the Chrome browser. The Responsive Web Design Tester
is a plug-in that can be added to your toolbar, enabling you to check if your site displays optimally on devices from HTC, Apple, Samsung, Nexus and more. Give it a try—and if any of your sites display sub-optimally on one or more device, then we’d love to have a conversation here at Ingenta.
Mark Hester is one of Ingenta’s experts on digital hosting systems, with experience at publishers including Elsevier and Blackwell. You can email Mark or call him on 01865 397876. Click here for more about Ingenta’s services.