Mobile Impact and Optimization
By Kelly McNamara
Senior Director, Community Development
July 21, 2016
At Health Union, our online health communities: Migraine.com,MultipleSclerosis.net, RheumatoidArthitis.net, Type2Diabetes.com,HepatitisC.net, COPD.net, CrohnsDisease.com, Asthma.net, and IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, have experienced mobile traffic more than close to double that of desktops and laptops. While a lot of reasons could play into this, such as the demographics of our communities or the role of promotions of our content, recent trends regarding mobile and PC devices show we are not the only ones to experience such an increase in mobile usage. Recent research has shown an explosion of mobile use.
General Statistics for Mobile Devices
- Pew Research estimated the number of Americans who owned smartphones to be 72% of the population.1
- 10% of Americans do not have any access to the internet at home except through their smartphone.2
- 15% of Americans have limited options to get internet access except through their smartphone.2
- 77% of adult smartphones use their devices to avoid being bored.2
- 67% of smartphone users use their device to share content including pictures, videos, or events happening in their community. 35% do this frequently.2
- It’s estimated the average smartphone user spends on average five hours per a day on their smartphone and 76% of the global internet users have access to a mobile device.3
Recent research has shown desktop purchases and time spent online haven’t decreased, it’s just that smart phone purchases and time spent online have increased exponentially.4 Is the takeaway here that people are spending more time online overall? Smartphones are portable and can be taken anywhere, and generally less expensive than a desktop or laptop computer. The web, apps, social media, location services can all be accessed instantaneously. As the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) puts it, “mobile’s share of traffic is growing, but the overall pie is growing too.”5 And, media owners and creators, such as ourselves, have to take this into account as the strategize how to best reach their members using mobile and PC devices.
Demographic Statistics for Mobile Devices
- Americans who demographically have lower socioeconomic status and less education tend to be more likely to be smartphone dependent and less likely to own another device like a PC or tablet.2
- 12% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos are smartphone dependent versus only 4% of Caucasians.2
- 62% of smartphone users use their phones to get information about health conditions.2
- 78% of adults 50 and older reported their smartphones were ‘freeing’ rather a ‘leash’ whereas 66% of adults aged 18–49 said their smartphones were ‘freeing’.2
- 87% of millennials reported their “smartphone never leaves my side”.6
Before we launch any health community, we break down the condition demographics and online demographics of the community. For us, it’s important to understand what communities might skew older versus younger and tailor our sites. For example, COPD.net demographically tends to skew older than some of our other communities. Their utilization of mobile isn’t as significant as CrohnsDisease.com where the demographics of those online skews younger. Several of our communities skew demographically lower income and we find might be more likely to use mobile as the Pew statistic suggests.
As the Pew statistics depict above, 77% of adult smartphones use their devices to avoid being bored. Pew breaks this stat down further and results showed 99% of users use their smartphones at home, 82% in their car or public transit, 53% while waiting in line, and 50% walking from place to place.2 The WSJ found that overall growth of mobile devices has predominantly occurred during the morning and night hours, which again would suggest that people might be using their mobile devices as a time-killer, whereas desktop/laptop usage seems to have remain consistent during the weekday.5 So, how can we take advantage of those looking to kill time? Facebook’s news feeds and trending topics are examples of time-killer features. Push notifications are another example. They are app-centric only but can app-like notification features be carried over to web browsing? These are just a few ways but as we think through ways to keep users engaged, we want to provide them with ways to combat boredom.
In 2015, 75% of video views on Facebook were through a mobile device. Our most recent video experiment supports this statistic.6 On the RheumatoidArthritis.net page, autoplay statistics were over 96% of the total video views and much of this we attribute to autoplay on mobile. Visual content such as video and pictures continues to rise such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, and numbers show user-shared video views is increasing quickly. Is there a way to marry user generated content and mobile? Users are now the creators and the app or site are the curators. This model aligns directly with ours at Health Union. We need to determine how best to give people the opportunity to share both their content as well as ours on mobile.
Optimizing Content for Mobile
Pew found that 49% of smartphone users reported they’ve had experiences where content was not optimized or displaying correctly on their device.2 Optimizing for mobile may include everything from site design to site structure to page speed to optimizing any newsletters and emails.
Site Design, Site Structure, and Page Speed
In Pew’s research, 47% of smartphone users reported at some point experiencing connectivity issues.2 Due to these issues, page speed becomes a big consideration for optimizing for mobile. Minimizing coding, ensuring browser caching to remember a person when they visit, and ensuring images and videos can load quickly are a few ways options to leverage page speed. URLs should be the same across all devices whether the user is on mobile or desktop. For images, mobile users want high resolution images without scrolling to see the full image and they don’t want to experience further lag time than they would on desktop.7
From Apple watches to mobile devices, screens are getting smaller and people are viewing these screens vertically. When a person searches on mobile screens, less search results will appear. Making titles, meta descriptions, keywords, and URLs as concise as possible without losing the quality of information becomes important when structuring a site.Horizontal screens (Desktop/Laptop and TVs) still dominate the amount of time per day internet users are viewing content, but vertical views (mobile) are increasing. In 2010, the average time spent vertically viewing content was 0.4 hours, while the average in 2015 is 2.8 hours.6,7
KPCB also took a closer look at four ways ads/content are presented on mobile: Pinterest Cinematic Pin: content moves as user scrolls, Vessel 5-Second Ad: short video ad, Facebook Carousel Ad: scroll to the right to view more images, and Google Local Inventory Ad: shows products available to buy nearby.3
With the increase in mobile and tablets, the whole game has changed how users navigate the web and the ‘above the fold’ rule remains highly debated. As mobile users want information with “ease and speed”, it’s important to allow users to easily scroll and ensure the most important pages of the site are above the fold to drive users to want read more and navigate further. To ensure we’re doing this, we pull monthly analytics regarding device usage and resolution and base content optimization off these statistics. Within Google Chrome’s Develop Tools, we can test how each of our articles works on different mobile and tablet devices.8
How are our members accessing emails? Marketing statistics show emails are increasingly being opened on mobile more so than desktop mail apps and webmail. For instance, according to Google, 75% of Gmail users have access to email on their mobile device.6 Pew reports 88% of users use email features on their device. Campaign Monitor found in the first quarter of 2014, 42% of emails were open on mobile, 14% on webmail, and 23% on desktop. The biggest complaints people have about smartphone email are:8
- Are they’re receiving too many?
- Is the content relevant to them?
- Is the content too small to read?
- Are the emails optimized or well formatted for mobile and vertical screens?
As with any content on our site, we need to ensure our emails are mobile friendly and keeping our users engaged.
Is there value added with an app? On the pro side, apps allow users to tailor their experience to be mobile-specific and allows for push notifications. Statistically 85–90% of smartphone users spend their time on apps. However, 80–90% of this time is spent on the top 20–25 apps.3 So we can infer: yes, people are using apps, but they’re only using the same apps repeatedly. Ultimately, users visit a larger number of websites than apps. For value to be added, an app can’t be a duplicate copy of a website. If the app doesn’t provide an experience the mobile site cannot, there isn’t value added. But, we can continue to utilize apps such as Facebook and Twitter to help drive traffic to our site and provide content to our members. So, while developing one’s own apps might not make sense for everyone, we have to take into consideration mobile devices do create a culture where users expect to “get what they want with ease and speed.”3
Why do people like to communicate via smartphone? It’s “asynchronous yet instant”. It’s “expressive yet fast”. It’s “engaging yet user controlled”. It’s “casual yet professional”. It’s “easy yet productive”. It’s “personal yet mainstream”. It’s “mobile but distributed”. It’s “instant yet secure”. It’s “real-time yet replay-able”. It’s “current yet evergreen”. It’s “accessible yet global”. It’s “simple yet 24×7”.3 KPCB attributes these factors as the reasons people like messaging through their mobile devices but these behaviors pretty much apply to all mobile features. And, as we brainstorm through our mobile strategy, we need to keep all of these in mind.
- Poushter J. Smartphone Ownership and Internet Usage Continues to Climb in Emerging Economies. Pew Research Center. February 22, 2016.
- Smith A. U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. Pew Research Center. April 1, 2015.
- Meeker M. Internet Trends 2015 — Code Conference. Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. May 27, 2015.
- Carlson N. Here’s An Excellent Presentation About the Rise of Mobile and the Massive Implications. Business Insider. May 26, 2013.
- Marshall J. Mobile Isn’t Killing the Desktop Internet. The Wall Street Journal. May 26, 2015.
- Meeker M. Internet Trends 2016 — Code Conference. Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. June 1, 2016.
- Google Mobile Friendly Websites
- Allen T. Life Above and Beyond the Fold. Moz. January 20, 2014.
- Rijn JV. The Ultimate Mobile Email Stats Overview. EmailMonday.