As I’ve stated throughout my journey into emerging media, I’m a fairly late adaptor to new technology. I grew up in a much simpler time where I can still remember (barely) my Dad using me as the TV remote control. If I was playing nearby, he’d ask me to change the channel for him during commercial breaks. And, at four or five years old, I can remember being all too happy to run over to the TV and push one of the 13 buttons on the console set.
However, my days of being the remote control ended abruptly when we got our first VCR in the early 1980s. It came with a remote control, and there was no turning back.
So, when I saw a Mashable article today with this video of a very “early adaptor,” I had to ask myself: What will her media world look like 10 or 20 years from now?
It’s probably a safe bet to say that magazines won’t be a big part of her world…or anybody’s.
Not too long ago, I came across an article on ReadWriteWeb where the author described how his colleague’s 9-year old son accessed the Web (and the world) entirely through YouTube videos on his iPad.
“Whenever his son needed any information, he would open up YouTube, type in the search term and then just watch the videos that showed up as matches. He never Googled anything; he never went to any other site; his entire Web experience was confined to YouTube videos.”
The author went on to say:
“Imagine a whole generation of kids growing up and learning about the world through YouTube [on an iPad]. In the first half of the 20th century, people grew up reading books and newspapers. Then there was a generation that grew up on movies and television. The last shift was to the Internet. And now Web video is creating yet another generation.
Kids no longer learn about the world by reading text. Like the television generation, they are absorbing the world through their visual sense. But there is a big difference. Television was programmed and inflexible. YouTube is completely micro-chunked and on demand. Kids can search for what they need anytime. This is different, and powerful.”
The CIO at the university where I work described the same experience with his 4-year old son. He simply sits with an iPad on his lap and watches one YouTube video after another. He has no interest in TV. Pushing the buttons on the TV remote control is “no fun” compared to the interactive experience he gets on an iPad.
It’s clear that as this “digital native” generation grows up, they will expect to be able to interact with all of their media. Ten or 20 years from now, describing traditional media to them may be like this Gen Xer trying to describe a TV without a remote control to a Gen Yer.
As marketers, are we ready to reach the consumers of today and tomorrow with new and emerging media?
We better be.
After all, there is no turning back.
With the explosion of smartphones on the market, one would think that usable mobile Websites would be the standard in 2011. But, it appears that we may have to wait 15 years for a mobile usability experience that compares to what we currently experience when accessing the Web through our computers.
Jakob Nielsen, a renowned researcher and consultant for Internet usability, has conducted two global studies to determine the success rate of mobile Web users being able to complete a variety of tasks using their smartphones. The Nielsen Norman Group conducted the first mobile usability study in 2009 and found that the average success rate for mobile users was 59%.
Two years later, the average mobile user success rate has increased by only 3 percentage points to 62%. Breaking the data down further, mobile users had a 64% success rate on sites designed for mobile use, while only a 58% success rate on full sites designed for desktop computers.
Although this 3% rate of improvement seems slow, it’s comparable to the rate of improvement seen among desktop Websites. Over the past 12 years, the Nielson Norman Group has conducted 263 desktop Web usability studies and has found that the current success rate for mobile Web usability is the same as it was for desktop Web usability in 1999. Currently, the desktop Web success rate is at 84%.
If the rate of mobile Web usability improves at the same pace as desktop Web usability, we’ll have to wait until 2026 to reach a 84% success rate for mobile users.
Can mobile marketers wait 15 years to reach an 84% success rate?
For many of today’s mobile Web users, the honeymoon period is over. The “cool factor” of just being able to access the Web through their mobile devices has worn off, and it has been replaced with higher expectations resulting from every good and bad mobile Web experience they have.
So how do we get to 2026 faster?
First, we need to build separate mobile Websites that give users more manageable experiences than trying to navigate desktop Websites on their smartphones. Mobile users do have more success using mobile apps (76%) than mobile Websites (64%), but mobile apps are expensive to develop so it may be more cost-effective for brands to design a mobile site rather than an app.
Second, mobile Websites need to load quickly with minimal failure rates. This means minimizing extraneous graphics and content that do not add to the mobile users’ experiences. Below are the Top 30 mobile commerce retail sites, with the top performer, Sears, achieving a less than 4-second load time and a 0.08% failure rate. Impressive!
The longest load time of the Top 30 was almost 33 seconds. In our impatient society, that can seem like a lifetime. Yet, this retail site made the Top 30 list. Imagine the load times for those not on the list? Most mobile Websites should aim for a 10-second load time.
Third, we need to follow design guidelines specific for mobile Web development. The Nielson Norman Group has identified 210 guidelines, an increase of 125 guidelines since 2009. With mobile sites, the number one guideline is to design for a small screen. Mobile marketers and Web designers need to work together to identify the most important mobile Web features, limit any non-essential features, and design around the user experience, e.g., appropriately spacing links so users can easily click with their “fat fingers.”
Fourth, once we’ve designed a mobile Website, we need to let mobile users know about it by cross-linking the full Website to the mobile site and vice versa. Search engines often direct mobile users to a brand’s full Website, rather than to the mobile site. By cross-linking, mobile users can choose which site they prefer to use.
Finally, we can learn a lot by studying the best. Below is a video highlighting the nominees for the 2011 Meffys Awards for the Best Mobile Website, including:
And the winner is…
DISCLAIMER: This video takes about 20 seconds to start, an ironic reminder of what it’s like to wait for a poorly designed website to load on a mobile phone.
The goal of Web 3.0 is to help us make better meaning out of the massive amounts of data that have accumulated with Web 2.0. With the promise of Web 3.0 in the distant future, what can we do now to make Web 2.0 more meaningful and manageable?
Perhaps an intermediate step in the “Internet Evolution” should be the reduction in the amount of data that is floating around in cyberspace? Not only could less data make the Web more manageable, but it may actually make the data more meaningful.
Many companies strive to create the most comprehensive website possible by putting “everything” online. After all, cyberspace has no boundaries, so there’s lots of room for everything—plus the kitchen sink!
However, some are beginning to rethink the “everything” approach. Instead, they are designing Website navigation and content around “top tasks.” Most consumers visit Websites with an end goal in mind – to research information, to make a purchase, to request more information, etc. The longer it takes them to accomplish their goals, the more frustrated they will be come—and the less they will think of your brand.
In theory, the longer consumers stay on the site, the more engaged they are with your content, your products, and your brand.
Or, could it be that they’re lost in an overwhelming maze of too much content, too many links, and too many graphics, so it’s taking them twice as long to do what they want to do? Studies have shown that the more time people spent on Web pages, the less they understood.
Furthermore, it has been shown that lines, boxes, and graphics constructed to catch the eye actually work as barriers, as consumers perceive them to be “marketing traps.” These additional graphics can actually break the flow of the consumers’ “journey” through your Website.
The companies that value consumers will value their time and build their Websites accordingly. They will reduce unnecessary content (cut in half, and then cut in half again), graphics, and other barriers that serve no real purpose other than to make their Websites “sticky.”
Plus, now that more and more people are accessing Websites through small mobile devices, it’s even more important to have a “top tasks” and “less is more” approach to Website design.
As IMC professionals, it should be our goal to help consumers do what they need to in the most efficient manner possible. After all, IMC is about building relationships. When’s the last time you wanted to have a relationship with someone who wasted your time?
For Web 2.0, less is really more.