If there’s one thing we can be sure about, it’s that the pace of change in the IT industry and, in particular, the Internet, isn’t going to slow down soon.
If you can remember a few years back when Apple released the iPhone, it was entering a marketplace that everyone thought was already completely saturated. Nokia was dominating, their standard ringtone was ubiquitous and automatically associated with mobile phones. Surely nothing could topple them?
At the time, we were told that WAP was the way forward. It was a method by which we could get Internet-style data on a small LCD screen. At the time, it seemed this was all we needed, probably because we couldn’t imagine anything else being necessary. The biggest use of a phone was to, surely, phone people?
But Apple’s new device meant we could now visit ‘regular’ websites and view them correctly. Yes, the screen was small and web pages at the time weren’t designed to be navigated with a finger, but it worked.
Smartphones were suddenly the “new thing to own” and older phones that didn’t have a full-colour screen were quickly replaced. Even in the fast moving technology and gadget market, it’s quite incredible just how rapidly this change took place.
Before long people would be seen peering into their tiny screens while they waited at bus stops or travelled on the train. Facebook and Twitter made it easier than ever to browse their sites using native applications. For the web site owner, it was advantageous to have a version that worked on mobile phones as it made it easier for people to read information on the go. Those companies that catered for them, benefited from this extra traffic.
Some organisations built mobile friendly versions of their site. This was the best solution at the time as it gave phone users the ability to have big buttons to get to the most relevant parts of the website. For many companies, this resulted in having two sites to manage. However, people were already working on a solution to this – the responsive page.
The thing is, mobile phones were only the beginning. Apple, in their normal trailblazing way, soon brought out the iPad. This, yet again, changed the way people went about their daily business of interacting with the Internet. It was little more than an iPhone expanded into tablet form. Yes, other companies had gone down this route before, but Apple made it usable. This posed a problem – is it desktop, or is it mobile?
And it didn’t stop there. We got different sizes of tablet. Competitors brought them out in 7-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch and 11-inch formats. How does a website cope?
The responsive website doesn’t have multiple versions of itself. It simply re-sizes and re-positions elements based on the size of screen used to view it. For many organisations, this was the ideal solution, but due to the cost of re-designing large websites, it took a while for some to take it seriously.
The ‘carrot’ of providing a good user experience wasn’t enough. Ok, so what if users had it better, were they the kind of customer needed? Isn’t it all business to consumer traffic anyway? Do businesses really have to bother with all this?
The ‘stick’ came in April 2015. Google weighed in and said that they were going to change things. If your site didn’t offer a good experience to mobile users as well as desktop, you were looking at losing ranking. Yes, it was that blunt.
But still there’s resistance. Is mobile that big an issue?
Yes. Mobile now accounts for over 50% of the searches on Google. That’s a big deal.
It may be tempting to assume that all of those people hunched over their little phone on the bus are just using Facebook, playing Candy Crush or finding our what Justin Beiber had for lunch, but there’s also a good chance they’re working. On the daily commute, a buyer from a large defence firm may need to look up a company who could get them some new motherboards, quickly.
A manufacturer, stuck on the train on the way to a large meeting in the city, might be searching for a company with the track record to project manage an entire re-fit of a factory.
It doesn’t matter how old or how “traditional” your business is, it needs to be available to your customers, regardless of the technology they’re using. The number of people searching for your products using mobile phones is going to keep on increasing, and if you don’t account for that in your digital marketing, you will not reach them.
As alluded to earlier, technology isn’t going to stop. OK, you spent a lot of money on your website, but it’s an intrinsic part of your marketing. You wouldn’t expect any other aspect of your promotional campaigns to be “fire and forget”, so you shouldn’t expect that of your website.
Likewise, when marketing your organisation across such varied media, do you allow for the small screen of mobile? Do you make it easy for people to contact you, research your products using just one hand and a thumb?
Mobile isn’t some brave new world. When it comes to advertising, PR and marketing, it’s now the dominant marketplace for everybody’s products, even yours.