12 Mar

Do you look good on a smartphone?

A study recently completed by the University of Derby concludes that some people have become addicted to their smartphones, ie. they have become physically and mentally dependent on their devices. The study found a positive relationship between this addiction and narcissism. Apparently taking selfies and posting them online is one of the key signs of this problem. So if you are a frequent selfie poster, watch out! A quarter of those who took part in the survey that formed this research admitted that smartphones can cause communication problems in real life. I can totally believe this. When was the last time you took a sneak peek at your phone under the dinner table or at a social gathering when you ought to have been engaged in the conversation around you? I am as guilty as anyone!

The fact is that smartphones are an integral part of our everyday lives. The smarter they get, the better the screens, the more apps we use, the more important our smartphones become to our daily routine. On any given day, I reckon most of us will likely be interacting more with our smartphones than any single human being.

For the travel industry, this is important because if your online presence does not look good or function well on mobile, your business is going to suffer.

This is backed up by the latest wave of research by brand consultancy Nucleus – their Mobile Web Browsing Survey. (See http://www.nucleus.co.uk/research.aspx .) The survey is based on the surfing habits of Nucleus customers’ customers. It uncovers some interesting findings. From previous waves, it was already clear that customers purchasing luxury travel are more likely to be using Apple iOS devices rather than Android devices. This remains so with the survey showing that iOS retains its dominance with 77% share of mobile browsing for luxury travel.

What is significant is that the first of Nucleus’ customers has seen the majority of browsing being done on mobile (just over 53%). This is for a world famous five star hotel with 75% of mobile browsing done on Apple. A word of caution here. Nucleus does like to define mobile as including tablets, whereas I see tablets as more of a laptop/home computer replacement. However, it is interesting to see the impact of larger screen smartphones, particularly the introduction of the iPhone 6. For some of the sites Nucleus surveyed, iPhone surfing has been steadily growing until it now outstrips iPad surfing.

Are you bothered? You need to be. Websites that are designed for PC screens are just about unusable on smartphones. Hopefully, your site is not like this. If you want to see who is failing right now, type “holiday” into Google on your mobile and have a surf. Some quite large travel companies have still not got their mobile act together.

As important as usability is, if your site is not even found then you are in real trouble. Read this note from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, posted 26 February, “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” If your site is not mobile friendly you are going to drop off the edge of Google’s world. You can take the Google test to see whether your site cuts it. Search for “mobile-friendly test” on Google to take their test. If you enter your URL and get messages back like “Text too small to read” or “Links too close together” you don’t look good on a smartphone. You only have a matter of weeks to sort yourself out.