Mar 25, 2009

Mobile Is the Elite Internet User Differentiator

Pew Internet and the American Life Project has developed a new typology for internet users based on mobile internet use--phones. Their previous typology [pdf] was based on broadband and gadget adoption, but current findings of what makes a technology user elite is mobile internet use.
For 39% of the adult population, mobile and wireline access tools have a symbiotic relationship. Mobile users typically have ready access to high-speed connections at home, which likely pushes them toward deeper home high-speed use; the digital content found on the mobile device may prompt more activity on their broadband-enabled big screen at home. At the same time, the desktop internet experience migrates to “on the go” as the handheld becomes a complementary access point to connect with people and digital content wherever a wireless network reaches. --Read more on Pew Internet
Pew found that younger people were more likely to be among the mobile elite, but one-fourth of the people 50+ join them. 

The categories of information and communication technology users that Pew defines is below. [I hate the term information and communication technology users. Can't we call them Internet users and just expand the definition to mobile??] 

Where do you fit in? Where do your users fit? What are their expectations and what will be their expectations in the future. Are your websites and applications "mobile ready?"

Motivated by Mobility (39% of the population)

Stationary Media Majority (61% of the population)

Read the entire study at Pew Internet & American Life Project. Kudos to Pew for making the entire report available online--without having to download a PDF. Nice!


  1. I understand the need for mobile access, I use it myself. But I'm on the fence about whether an organization should try to design a mobile version of their site and whether it will end up being worth it.

    If you make your agency's home page mobile, visitors will then expect to click a link and get the mobile version of that site as well. Any site that you point to from the mobile version will need to be retrofitted for a small resolution format. You also typically have a domain starting with This means that most agencies will need to maintain two separate sites, especially if they're not dynamically generated.

    You also have to consider that not every agency has one group controlling their site. Many organizations have multiple parties involved the site. It's unfortunate, but true. So getting all of those player involved, taught, etc on how to design a mobile version of their page (and to maintain a separate site that always has to be up to date) can be difficult to accomplish.

    Now, considering how much time it will take to do all that...and how much $$$ it will cost in employee time, server, learning best practices of mobile sites, etc...will it be all for not? The iPhone pushed the envelope on mobile browsing. It's able to display many sites through a scaled down view almost eliminating the need for a "mobile version." The BlackBerry Storm is doing the same thing and many other phones are also moving that direction in order to keep up with the public demand for that kind of interface.

    So do you think that by the time most phones have similar browser experiences like the iPhone, BB, etc that all of our time spent on creating mobile sites will be wasted since the normal site works just as well?

    Instead, why not put that money toward increasing public access to data, or improving the content quality of our sites, or usability of the site making it easier to find content?

    Something to think about.

  2. Scott, thanks for the comment. I think that you are raising more bumps than barriers.

    You don't need a if your web site separates content from the presentation layer. You can do it with a mobile stylesheet.

    Also, there are a other reasons why mobile is important. First, in an emergency, cell phones may be all the communications folks have. Agencies could work now to ensure that at least their emergency content is avail on phones.

    Last, mobile is an equalizer. Low income people may not have broadband and a laptop at home, but will have a cellphone. Maybe not a high end IPhone or Storm. See especially Homeless People Turn to Technology to Track Assistance and Opportunities.


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