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Increasing mobile web usage and increasing web page size are on a collision course May 5, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in Internet, mobile.
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iPhone users browse the web on their phones far more than the users of other phones. According to the NY Times, over Christmas 2007, Google got more traffic from iPhones than from any other type of phone, despite the iPhone’s small market share:

The data is striking because the iPhone, an Apple product, accounts for just 2 percent of smartphones worldwide, according to IDC, a market research firm. Phones powered by Symbian make up 63 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, while those powered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile have 11 percent and those running the BlackBerry system have 10 percent.

Info World notes:

The key to the iPhone’s success is the fact that it provides a unified, full browser experience, said Neil MacDonald, a Gartner analyst. By comparison, Windows Mobile is a fractured platform, with separate PDA and smartphone versions, as well as a version of the browser that doesn’t support full HTML.

But at the same time we have an increase in full web browsing on the phone, web pages are getting bigger. Much bigger. The average web page tripled in size since 2003. Why? WebsiteOptimization.com says:

Web 2.0 technologies such as Ajax certainly contribute to the increase in the number of objects per page, as well as the growth in JavaScript file size. Dynamically generated sites from content management systems are typically not as optimized as hand-tuned sites, and often carry over site-wide CSS, JavaScript, and page components to every page on a site.

As broadband becomes more widespread web designers have created more elaborate designs, assuming that a large proportion of their audience is on broadband, or ignoring dial-up users entirely.

Even iPhone users will acknowledge that visiting big web pages, especially those incorporating rich user interactions, can be a frustrating experience. Yet most pundits agree that web usage is only going to increase on mobile devices, despite the triple constraints of slower connections, slower processors and smaller form factors.

I’d be curious to hear what readers think will happen as these two trends collide.

Comments»

1. Ginger Makela - May 5, 2008

I actively avoid sites that I know will take a long time to load on my iphone. And I have no patience for ads in my mobile browser at all.

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2. SD - May 5, 2008

The answer obviously depends on the type of site. But in summary, sites need to be optimized for device size, bandwidth, browser and memory/processor speed/gfx chip (yes, even for an iphone).

This does not have to be complicated. Certain types of content elements (rss feeds, video, etc…) travel reasonably well to mobile devices, and could be delivered as part of a “light” or “syndicated” site experience.

The site size is fairly irrelevant, because the ASSETS can be delivered independent of the site. In areas where there is more of a heavy lift on the page itself – flash, java or ajax apps, there is no mobile standard yet (though Adobe is pushing hard to gain adoption for flash lite).

For the forseeable future, publishers will have to 1- sniff out what device is using the site, 2- redirect to lite versions of the site when its a mobile device 3- will have to continue to build versions of site components for mobile (and prioritize what “mobile” means on the basis of device market share and consumer usage profiles) and 4- publishers will need to provide more and more metadata with the “raw assets” in order to make these assets searchable when they travel to mobile devices.

3. SD - May 5, 2008

One other point – for businesses where the app IS the site (eg games, or photo editing, etc…), they will have to produce content / apps especially for the mobile…..tools that travel across platforms (again, adobe comes to mind) will have an advantage as they try to sell to publishers, because they will reduce the cost of creating multiplatform apps.

4. Iphone » Increasing mobile web usage and increasing web page size are on a collision course - May 5, 2008

[…] The Apple Core | ZDNet.com wrote an interesting post today on Increasing mobile web usage and increasing web page size are on a collision courseHere’s a quick excerpt iPhone users browse the web on their phones far more than the users of other phones. According to the NY Times, over Christmas 2007, Google got more traffic from iPhones than from any other type of phone, despite the iPhone’s small market share: The data is striking because the iPhone, an Apple product, accounts for just 2 percent of smartphones worldwide, according to IDC, a market research firm. Phones powered by Symbian make up 63 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, while those pow […]

5. Jud Valeski - May 5, 2008

it all comes down to effective caching methodologies (Yahoo! performance folks blog about their studies regularly, and have the best data (for iPhone or otherwise)), user-agent sniffing (routing my devices to the right content on your site), and domain/path hosting of mobile, agent specific, content (e.g. blah.mobi, m.blah.com, blah.com/m).

while mobile/device gateways can help, they suffer from age-old transformation problems that will never go away.

funny you bring this up. a website lost a $200 sale from me just yesterday because their website didn’t load fast enough on my iPhone.

6. Lex - May 5, 2008

This is not just a problem of bandwidth, transfer speed, and processing power. It’s a general problem of design: hardware, software and information. Since our monitors have expanded from 17″ to widescreen 24″, webpages have gotten wider, more graphics intensive and have acquired a different aesthetic. It is a structural problem to try to go against that expansion (rich content etc) by cramming the web into tiny phone devices.

It seems that the web will have to be more and more splintered, with different versions of sites written for handhelds and full computers, and everything in between. Some sort of meta mark-up language?

7. Urban Aesthete | Your Daily Dose of the Arts » Blog Archive » Media and Screens. - May 5, 2008

[…] fare much better in that example. Update: Lightspeed VP brings up this point in relation to data transfer and processing power. The richness and processing demand of web-based application does not play very well with the […]

8. Q dub - May 10, 2008

I wonder how does a Blackberry download low quality versions of images, when non are explicitly provided by the website. If it’s the BES, then there could be interested intermediary products that scale-down pages at the telecom stage before shipping them off.

Another sure trend is that over time, CMS’s will get smarter about generating mobile content automatically. Most content today is produced from some kind of CMS anyway, so I doubt it leads to much burden on content creators.


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