The Changing Significance of Mobile Devices For Websites

Mark Heath photoWith my Increase Broadband Speed website being in existence for many years now, analysis of usage statistics (using Google Analytics) has revealed many interesting trends. Perhaps, the most striking trend over the years has been the increasing access to the website by mobile devices. Figure 1, below, shows the proportion of sessions delivered to different device types during the January of each year (from 2014 to 2021).

Figure 1: The Proportion of Sessions Delivered to Mobile, Desktop and Tablet Devices

 

Back in 2014, desktops were dominant, accounting for nearly four-fifths (78.9%) of all sessions, with mobile devices accounting for less than 10% of traffic. By January 2021, the situation was dramatically different. Mobiles accounted for about two-thirds of sessions (65.1%) with desktops accounting for less than a third (31.7%) of sessions.

The changing proportions of device types bring significant challenges for web developers and website owners. They must ensure that sites that have historically been designed for desktops (with their relatively large screens) deliver a good experience on small-screen mobile devices. Furthermore, page sizes for mobile devices should be minimised in case users are accessing them via slow mobile networks.

Historically, Google’s search index used the desktop version of a website’s content to decide on rankings. Google now crawls and indexes pages using a smartphone agent.  Google’s so-called ‘mobile first indexing’ is enabled by default for all new websites.

Mobile access is not everything though. It is important to deliver a good experience to desktop users too. I work using 27-inch retina screens and I really appreciate the ability to view more information than possible with mobile devices and I like seeing improved high-quality (retina) images. So, you need to keep desktop users using high-resolution screens happy too!

Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool can really help you optimise your website experience for both mobile and desktop users as described in our article:

The Increasing Importance of Website Speed and Simplicity