I've noticed an interesting phenomenon (one that is not new even really a phenomenon — considering the evolution of the user). Lately I've witnessed a massive rise of people sharing links on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, et al) only to find those links to be the mobile version of the sites they've visited.
That should come as no surprise to anyone. Or should it? If you glance at the statistics, you'll find varying reports of mobile vs. desktop usage. One report will declare 80% of users are searching the internet with mobile devices, whereas another report claims mobile internet searches hovering around 5%. These numbers are a major challenge to fold into logic for a number of reasons. One serious flaw in the calculation is the use of Chrome. Chrome reportedly takes over 60% of internet usage — but how does the mobile version play into that statistic (considering most Chrome instances default to standard desktop browsing as their identifier)?
No matter how you slice and dice the statistics, there is one indelible piece of data that bubbles to the top — mobile devices are taking over. Within the next five years, outside of the world of business, the relevance of the desktop will be seriously challenged. Although you might be thinking "What does this have to do with me?"
The answer? A lot.
Consider this ─ nearly every business has a web site. It's a necessary tool of the trade in the modern age. Of those websites, how many are built such that they offer both desktop and mobile experiences? If the current iteration of your company website doesn't auto detect if a user is viewing through a desktop or mobile browser, you are already way behind the times. Hold off on re-tooling your company site and, within the next five years, your site will be irrelevant to the average user. Yes, most every site will work on a mobile browser — but the user experience (UX) isn't nearly the same. The difference between usability on the desktop and the mobile device is vastly different. To that end, every business needs to seriously consider having their site(s) retooled to offer both desktop and mobile versions.
And consider when smart watches evolve to the point where they function independently of smart phones! If you're not already offering a mobile-friendly iteration of your company website, you'll find yourself in a GoGo Gadget hole you might not be able to pull yourself out of.
Growing dislike of the desktop
People love their mobile devices. This is a candy-level crush the desktop and laptop have never really enjoyed. Unlike the desktop, the average user feels they cannot live without their mobile devices. The rise of usage the mobile interface is seeing could easily lead to a growing dislike for the desktop and laptop experience. That growing dislike spells doom for the desktop.
Think about it this way — no matter which mobile platform you use, it was designed for absolute simplicity. No interface on any piece of technology has enjoyed such a success in the area of UX as with the mobile device. Android, iOS, and even Ubuntu Touch were all designed to make interacting as simple and enjoyable as possible. The desktop and laptop? Not so much. Consider the overall reaction to Windows 8 vs. Android Lollipop — very different reactions (even though both had massive shifts in the UI). People loathed the shift from Windows 7 to 8. Change on the mobile platform, however, is much more readily welcome. Why? Because that change almost inevitably means an even better experience. Creators of mobile platforms are that much better at designing interfaces.
To me that lays the foundation of unrest in the making. People are cutting the cords to their desktops in favor of mobile technology. It will only be a matter of time before users will actually prefer the mobile UX over the desktop. The next evolution will see users unfamiliar with the desktop. It sounds unlikely, but consider the amount of young kids with their hands on mobile devices (where they once toyed with laptops and desktops) and you should easily see where this evolution will inevitably lead younger generations.
Beyond your company website
Because users are growing more and more dependent upon mobility (and the devices that comprise the evolution), it falls onto you to revamp not only how your company functions, but the tools you use to function. Your CMS, ERP, HRM, and other tools need to become mobile-ready. For some, it's nothing more than installing a module that adds a mobile solution for the tool. With tools like Sharepoint, you can define how the site is displayed on mobile devices (you must activate Mobile Browser View as the Sharepoint admin). Within SugarCRM you can enable individual modules for mobile access.
You may balk at the idea of retooling the tools of your trade, but if you want to be in line with the evolution of the new world order, this will be necessary. When your employees are away from their desks (either in meetings, at lunch, or at home), the possibility that the only means they have to work is mobile clearly indicates you will have to, at some point, accommodate this change.
Consider this — at some point in time, users will walk away from their desktops and laptops (for good) and opt only for the mobile device. This evolution towards mobility means businesses must enable employees to work with their tools from within the likes of Android and iOS — smartphones and tablets.
This trend will not slow down. Users will eventually cast aside the standard operating system and procedure in favor of the new world order. If you and your business cannot comply with that change, you will be left behind. Is it a gloom and doom scenario? Not necessarily. But if you want to remain in-line with the needs of the masses, mobility must be on your radar — and not just with regards to email, texting, Facetime, and Google Hangouts. Your websites, tools, and methods need tweaked to meet the on-the-go nature of mobility.
Has your company fully embraced mobility? If not, what holds you back?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.