Mobile Device = Privacy?

Mobile devices create a feeling of privacy for their users. The truth may be far removed from this feeling, but it’s real. Take a look at this graph that illustrates Facebook’s revenue from mobile traffic (graph from Business Insider’s “Future of Digital: 2013” report). While the data driving the graph is for revenue it must also reflect the quantity of users on mobile and the amount of time they spend online with Facebook. Mobile usage on Facebook is huge. Why?

Let’s think about it. Facebook is (somewhat) a private experience — or is perceived as such by Facebook users. When you use Facebook on a desktop or laptop the screen is huge and feels like it’s available for everyone to see. Try that same experience on your mobile device and it feels more like you are whispering into the ear of dear, long-time friend. It’s a different experience, physically and emotionally.

The obvious conclusion is that mobile devices create a sense of privacy as your finger presses against the smooth, glass interface. Because it creates that sense of privacy, it has been quickly embraced by the Facebook audience. Using a mobile device is more intimate. Using a mobile device feels a bit more safe than a (relatively) huge desktop or laptop screen.

Now let’s think about how that my impact your website. Will your audience feel more comfortable interacting in a private-ish environment? Or will they be completely comfortable revealing to anyone within 15 feet their time spent on your website? Consider this — is your audience viewing your website while they are at work? Might they want to keep it a bit of a secret they are surfing through the pages in your site? Is their supervisor nearby? You may be surprised exactly what websites will encourage the private-ish experience provided by a mobile device.

With that thought in-mind, is your website delivering the best possible experience on mobile devices?

Think about it.

Smartphone Tsunami

Smartphones are swallowing the World Wide Web. I sometimes try to imagine what it must be like to be confronted with a massive wave of water heading in my direction. I have seen the video footage of rogue waves and the arrival of a tsunami surge. I don’t know why I am attracted to pondering this feeling, but there it is.

Today I’m reading a report from Business Insider called “The Future of Digital: 2013” — really, it’s a series of “slides” from a presentation by Henry Blodget for their “Ignition” event. Scrolling through the slides reveals one graph after another that simply looks like a tsunami of smartphones hitting the shoreline of the internet. It’s very impressive. Not surprising, but impressive.

As I view these images, one after another, I realize my subconscious  is wondering, “why do we still have any amount of discussion about creating a great website experience for the smartphone?”


Just look at this graph that illustrates how PCs are an incredibly small segment of all online devices — it looks like a killer wave about to swallow the Jersey shore!

Then take a look at this illustration that shows 60% of online devices are now smartphones or tablets. What do you see? Yep, another compelling visual of the tsunami of mobile devices!

What do we know? The debate is over. Smartphones win. Mobile devices continue to rapidly increase in quantity and online time. If you are creating a website, don’t even begin the conversation thinking about desktop or laptop browsers — just forget it! Step one is considering the mobile audience. The mobile audience rules. Mobile devices have swallowed the shoreline and now we must adapt!

Next time, think “mobile first.”

Naughty Navigation

Website navigation is a hot-button topic for me. Navigation can be great, but it can really do harm, too. This note will reveal a bit of the “grumpy old man” in me while also projecting some rays of sunshine-y hope. The important thing to understand is that, for most websites, navigation is a tool that helps your audience find what they desire. In some cases, navigation is the tool that fuels success for a company (think about any type of website that sells a product).

Here’s the good part: great website navigation makes everyone happy and helps visitors accomplish something.

Here’s the bad part: too often, website navigation becomes the target of applying cool, nifty, fancy effects that, ultimately, obstruct goals and cause frustration — even anger.

I was reading an article by Jen Cardello of the Nielsen Norman Group called Four Dangerous Navigation Approaches that Can Increase Cognitive Strain. That’s just a brainiac way of saying, “navigation that sucks” and, ultimately, doesn’t help anyone. Reading the article reminded me of (too) many encounters with clients that desire features to fancy-up their website navigation. And reading this article got me to start wondering “why do clients desire something that hurts their business?”

One of my clients has an answer. He builds homes. Big, unique, fancy, expensive custom homes. He has been building since the mid 1970s and knows that people like “shiny stuff”. The shiny stuff triggers positive reactions — emotions — that make folks feel great. Clients are influenced by things they see — other websites — and make them feel excited and desire to be seen as “fancy” and on the cutting edge of cool website design — the “shiny stuff”.

Here’s a bit of truth: the new, cool, cutting edge “shiny stuff” will frequently lead to problems. Think about new technology in automobiles. Those new shiny things usually break very quickly and cost a ton to repair or replace. Think of the same thing for home media — your big screen TV or fancy DVR that time-shifts your favorite shows. When you purchase one of those items with new, cutting-edge “shiny” features they frequently let you down — then cost you even more to repair or replace.

Now relate that scenario to the website that (you hope) fuels success for your business. When you should choose to keep the navigation simple, easy to find and easy to use, you do the opposite — make the navigation all fancy and cute and cool. Y’know what happens next? Website visitors can’t figure it out — they can’t find their way around! Here’s an interesting nugget of fact: most website visitors use a search tool to navigate a website. That means the native navigation is not truly usable.

Why would you do that?

I get that you want your website to be impressive, but to who? Satisfy the needs of your visitors — don’t try to impress your peers. Making your business more successful is truly the way to impress your peers — not the cool navigation in your website.

Keep it simple. Deploy navigation tools that are easy to use, easy to understand and always help the visitor find their way through your website (and back to where they came from). Help them. Be a great tour guide for your visitors — not some puzzle master challenging your visitors to solve a visual riddle to progress through your website.

Ponder this as you climb into an unfamiliar automobile and encounter dashboard controls. Are they easy to figure out? Easy to use? Or do they make you feel stupid?

Don’t make your website visitors feel stupid.

Not a Death, an Emergence

Today Newsweek announced their decision to sunset their print publication and only provide their news via digital delivery. While they are not the first to make such a decision, and certainly won’t be the last, a pervasive reaction has surprised me. The “meme” for the Newsweek change follows the idea that the magazine is dead. I have a different view.

As I see it, this decision reflects the publication emerging from its chrysalis, it’s paper-based cocoon, into a new, vibrantly colorful and light-weight creature. Newsweek is adapting. Perhaps even evolving into something that was always its destiny. This will be true for many publications that have existed inside their cocoon of wood pulp.

Here’s the truth: Emerging as a product available only through digital delivery is the truly mature destination. Residing only inside a stack of paper was a step in development towards this more effective form of delivery. The DNA of the creature remains the same, just the form has changed. The delivery has changed. No longer is this creature restricted to surfaces in one plane. Now this species can take to the skies, fly around with little or no resistance while traveling further with little or no additional effort.

This is not the death of Newsweek. This is the emergence of the new, winged Newsweek. And there will be more to come.