Analysing web site traffic – has the desktop decline peaked?

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Published 11th August 2016 | View or add comments
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For a long time, we have heard how people prefer to search on a mobile device rather than on a desktop or laptop computer.

That has certainly been true, and we have watched a steady growth in mobile visitors since we first launched our mobile site back in June 2009.

But I wonder if the growth of mobile and tablet traffic has reached a natural ceiling? Mobile devices are never going to completely replace office machines, at least not in the foreseeable future, and there are always a subsection of internet users that prefer to use a laptop or desktop machine.

Mobiles are logically going to account for specific types of queries, and as a directory it has been interesting to watch these evolve over the years as people search for a particular address or phone number while they are out and about. Daytime queries during traditional opening hours have increased on a mobile as opposed to queries in the evening when people may be at home.

Better infrastructure, cheaper data costs and better mobile websites will account for a lot of this, but last month we noticed a surprising change, which is replicated this month. Desktop traffic seems to be rising again.

 

Website Stats broken down by device

So our figures seem to suggest that June 2016 has regressed back to June 2014 regarding mobile and tablet queries, which is the year mobile web browsing usage really seemed to soar, at least on our business directory website.

 

The web browser landscape – June 2009

It is fascinating how the browser landscape has changed over the years and why it is important to make sure your business website is formatted correctly and works regardless of a user’s web browser or if they are using a mouse or a touch screen.

Here is a breakdown of the top ten browsers that accessed our web site back in June 2009. Although this was when we first launched our mobile friendly website we didn’t actually record any mobile visitors.

 

June 2009 browser sessions

It was certainly a simpler time, when Windows and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer ruled the roost after defeating Netscape (remember Netscape Navigator?), which in turn led to the formation of the open source Mozillla and Firefox browsers, to give a Microsoft alternative.

Safari references referred to the Apple Mac desktop browser, as this was long before the arrival of the iPhone.

A new kid on the block was Google Chrome who were having a dabble in the browser market.

These were the days when you made sure your website could be displayed on a desktop machine using Internet Explorer. With no real worries about wide screens or mobiles, and one dominant browser, this was the time to be a web designer!

 

The web browser landscape – June 2015

Fast forward to June 2015 and what a difference. We now have mobiles, tablet devices, wide screen laptops, trusty old PC’s and new dominant browsers depending on what kind of device you are using.

Here are the statistics for June 2015, broken down by desktop visitors, tablet visitors and mobile visitors.

 

June 2015 desktop browser sessions

Google Chrome has now surged ahead and replaced Internet Explorer as the top desktop browser. Firefox has remained fairly static over the years, being more popular with the technical community and maintaining a loyal following.

The Edge browser has started to make an appearance, which is Microsoft’s answer to Google Chrome and is the replacement for the familiar Internet Explorer. It is naturally the default browser on Windows 10, and I’m sure there is an obvious marketing and commercial reason why Edge (not to be confused with the U2 guitarist The Edge was deemed to be a better name than Internet Explorer version 12.

 

June 2015 tablet browser sessions

Now if you are one of the millions of tablet users, then looking at last year’s stats it looks like we had a lot of iPad users using the default Apple Safari browser.

Chrome browser usage on tablets is growing in popularity, but Firefox and Internet Explorer is almost non-existent.

 

June 2015 mobile browser sessions

A similar picture to tablets is painted by the mobile stats for last year. For the UK at least, in 2015 Safari appeared to be the dominant tablet and mobile browser.

 

The web browser landscape – June 2016

So now we come up to date and look at what the current browser market share is for a general traffic UK directory.

 

June 2016 desktop browser sessions

Google Chrome’s lead is being chipped away by the increased use of the Microsoft Edge browser, whilst Internet Explorer will naturally decline as it is replaced.

Firefox seems to have gained a few percent, but for the business owner or web designer you need to make sure your desktop web site is well presented on Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Edge browsers.

 

June 2016 tablet browser sessions

Safari usage has lessened, whilst Chrome and a new one to watch, Amazon Silk, the browser used by Amazon Kindle Fire and the Fire Phone, have both seen their usage grow.

Android has also lost out, suggesting fewer tablets being used with the Google operating system.

 

June 2016 mobile browser sessions

For mobile traffic the results are a lot more static, with Apple’s Safari still on top.

 

Final Analysis

No one can argue against the rise of mobile traffic since 2009. But has it peaked as our stats suggest at around the 50/50 mark in 2015, or will this turn out to be an anomaly? What we can say for certain is that any business now without a mobile friendly web site is losing potential leads, conversions or possibly even sales?

But the days of ensuring your website worked correctly on Internet Explorer, or worrying if it worked on different versions of Internet Explorer, are now consigned to long distant memory.

The modern reality is that website visitors are arriving on your site from various devices, hand held, tablet, laptop, desktop and even SMART TV’s and game consoles. All of these different devices are using a variety of different browsers. The modern trend is to use what is called a responsive design website, which means it will be displayed correctly regardless of what device or screen size a website visitor uses.

This is a great solution if implemented properly and should be suitable for most websites, but it must be stressed that you should assume nothing. A lot of responsive websites are plagued with the long scroll, meaning every bit of desktop content is crammed on to the mobile version, leaving users having to scroll and scroll on a little screen. All modern browsers should render your website correctly, but it is well worth the time and energy to check it yourself and try and see your site with a visitor’s eyes.

Does everything work correctly on your website when you swap between browsers? If you have a desktop or laptop then download other browsers. Look at your website in Google Chrome, then Microsoft Edge (or Internet Explorer), and maybe try Firefox. They are all free and a simple download assuming you have a half decent broadband connection.

Then do the same on a mobile phone. If you have an iPhone, check your site in Safari. You can then download a Chrome browser for your phone and see how it looks using that. Likewise do the same if you have a tablet device. You can download most browsers for most manufacturers.

Remember that mobile, tablet, and now some desktop and laptop devices are touch screen. Sounds obvious, but is your website? Google calls them tap targets, but do your buttons, links or menus all work ok when a fat finger like mine presses them?

There are a multitude of tools out there to help you, and any web designer will be able to assist you if you do have concerns or problems.

Google has a useful mobile friendly testing tool, that will point out any errors of your ways:

www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Your Google Search Console is also another way of looking for problems:

www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

You are always welcome to come and ask for advice or help on our business forum, particularly if the prospect of websites or trying to find someone to fix them fills you with dread:

www.mylocalservices.co.uk/forum/


Cheers Steve
Directory & Local Search anorak
My Local Services
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