This post was originally published on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. They say that life can be summed up as the process of a series of doors closing. By that, they mean that opportunities for taking different paths start to disappear as you move through life. It’s a logical sentiment, but there’s an obverse to it. When you’re young, all those doors are open. Doors as far as you can see.
We hope you are finding it easier to get the information you need on USDA.gov following the launch of our site redesign in March. We’ve already welcomed over 1 million visitors to the new site and we are pleased with the positive feedback we’ve received thus far. Our redesign makes it easier for you to get the news you care about quickly and get on with your busy life. Now, you can explore “USDA in Action,” an area designed to quickly share what’s happening across the department.
We’re excited to launch a complete redesign of USDA.gov featuring stronger visual storytelling components, a more modern user-experience with easy to find services and resources, and to top it off, a completely mobile-friendly design. Through careful planning, thoughtful design, and a primary focus on user experience and usability, we’ve taken the best of government and industry expertise and put it into creating our new website. This has been a year-long project, but to do this right, we wanted to make sure we tapped into every possible resource.
Earlier this year, it was predicted that content marketing would become even more important due to its ability to enhance not just visibility, but also increase engagement with customers—who could, in turn, become great promoters of your content. Needless to say, much of our time these days as communicators is spent on developing, distributing, maximizing, and repurposing content. In the recent blog post, 15 Content Marketing Trends for 2016, it is noted that the “average American spends nearly four hours a day bombarded with different types of content.
The Pew Research Center released a report in July that shows people of Latino descent are heavily reliant on mobile phones for their Internet access, more than other ethnicities. The report said that since 2012, the percentage of Hispanic adults who used mobile devices to access the Internet jumped from 76% to 94% in 2015. These percentages are higher than both white and African American usage in the same years.
Last year Google began changing their search ranking algorithm to direct mobile users to mobile-friendly sites, and they recently announced that beginning in May they will be implementing an update to focus even more exclusively on boosting mobile-friendly sites. In the announcement, Google encourages website owners to test their sites using the Mobile-Friendly Test and Webmaster Mobile Guide, to learn how to improve your site for mobile friendliness. Previously we’ve covered how to prepare for “Mobilegeddon” (an industry term for the Google mobile-friendly shift) for government agencies.
A new report about email usage reinforced the importance of always building responsive websites. Yesmail’s quarterly report showed that mobile and desktop email click-to-open rates are converging to almost the same level for the first time ever. As people become more mobile-first and mobile-only users of the Internet, users opening emails on their desktop devices has dropped continuously for the past 2 years, from 22.6% to 15.3%. The report from Yesmail states: “The results certainly support the argument for responsive design,” as those who used responsive design in all of their emails had:
We have received an amazing response to the U.S. Digital Registry, our new API-generating repository for official third-party sites, social media platforms and mobile apps in the United States federal government. Federal digital managers have already added over 7,300 accounts and are continuously adding and updating social media and mobile app accounts in the registry. Outside of government, private and public sector organizations have been submitting feedback and offering praise.
As we move into 2016, here are 10 trends I foresee flourishing around mobile, technology and government: The mobile-majority tipping point in government. Many agencies are already past this point, but as a whole, government websites are still desktop-majority, with 66% of people accessing federal websites via desktop and 34% on mobile. In 2016, the double-digit mobile growth will continue to accelerate and surpass 50% for almost all agencies. (Much of the Web passed this point last year or in 2014, btw).
The Pew Research Center released an interesting report about home Internet usage that revealed broadband usage plateaued in 2013 and, in fact, dropped 3% in 2015. Later in the report, Pew states the growth in mobile-only audiences compensated for the drop in home broadband usage, so the overall number of people with Internet access hasn’t changed significantly. While 100% home broadband penetration may never be attainable for a number of reasons, Pew’s research found cost is the major reason for most people, cited by 43% of non-broadband users.
Half a decade since Steve Jobs declared war on Adobe Flash and refused to support it on Apple’s mobile and tablet devices, Flash is finally losing its crown as one of the stand-alone products of Adobe. In the announcement, Adobe said, “Flash has played a leading role in bringing new capabilities to the Web. From audio and animation, to interactivity and video, Flash has helped push the Web forward.
How do you capture millennial and Hispanic eyes? Through their hands. (More specifically: their mobile devices, and the social apps within!). AdAge recently analyzed a study from Nielsen’s Homescan panel which found that in a typical month, 12.2% of millennials can only be reached through TV (looking at the top 10 networks only) versus 14.2% who can only be reached on Facebook. The numbers are similar for U.S. Hispanics: 16.
What is mobile-friendly? Mobile-friendly simply means your visitors can use phones and tablets to visit your website and have a user-friendly experience. Many of us get toward the end of mobile site development and really do not know if what we created is “mobile-friendly.” We think we have followed all of the mobile best practices and performed usability testing. However, do we have something concrete to quantitatively certify that we are mobile-friendly?
Move over, 60 inch widescreens—for the first time ever, U.S. consumers are spending more time in mobile apps than on TV. An article from Flurry Insights, the blog for Yahoo’s mobile analytics service, covered the recent viewing trends. Apps are now the top media channel in the United States: on average, people spend 198 minutes on mobile apps every day, while spending only 168 minutes watching TV. The article noted that the 198 minutes spent on apps does not include time spent on a mobile browser: with that time added, users spend 220 minutes on mobile devices every day (a little more than 3.
A penny saved is a penny earned. But spending your pennies on mobile development is necessary to meet 21st century needs. Regardless of how you plan to create that awesome anytime, anywhere mobile experience, it’s going to cost you. While the most obvious parts of the mobile price tag for native app development are initial development and launch, the long term maintenance of the app must also be considered.
Yahoo’s mobile analytics service, Flurry, released a new and provocative report about mobile apps versus mobile browser usage, in which they found audiences are spending almost an hour more with their mobile phones than last year. They also discussed the importance of how “content is king” in mobile apps. The top mobile app categories included mobile messaging/social applications, entertainment, and games, which is nothing new; these continue to reign as the most popular among users as repeat research from different sources continues to prove this.
Benedict Evans, a leading mobile analyst with the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, published a provocative post last week about the death of the mobile Internet. He details the history of the mobile Web and posits that the mobile Internet is the Internet now. The desktop version of the Internet audience is smaller and declining, so organizations should focus resources on developing the mobile-optimized version first.
Google has announced a second wave of ‘Mobilegeddon’ search penalties for websites using mobile app install interstitials. Beginning November 1st, mobile app Web pages that use large app install interstitials to hide content from the users will be downgraded in search results for not being mobile-friendly. These are the kind of pop-ups you get when you land on a website for the first time and it immediately prompts you to install their app before you see or experience any content A smarter strategy for this kind of prompt would be to set a tracking cookie and only prompt users that have come back multiple times to the website or base the prompt on a longer period of time or number of pageviews into a visit before you prompt users—not before they even get to see the website.
In July, comScore released a research paper, The Global Mobile Report: How Multi-Platform Audiences & Engagement Compare in the U.S., Canada, UK and Beyond, covering a lot of areas from smartphone penetration to Android vs. Apple preferences. The most impactful trend for government agencies might be best communicated through this graphic: In the U.S., tablets and smartphones are driving the majority of digital media usage for 18-to 54-year-olds. People 55 and older are on the cusp of breaking the 50% barrier for mobile and tablet usage.
England’s Government Digital Service (similar to our own U.S. Digital Services and 18F) did a study of how content on their websites is consumed on mobile and non-mobile devices and learned several key points for a future-focused and mobile-friendly government organization: Mobile platforms account for the lion’s share of most of their content (see their graphic above), so being mobile-first and at least mobile-optimized is mandatory. More intense, complex tasks are still frequently started on desktops, but young and less affluent users expect to be able to do them on their smartphone.
It’s been a while, but in previous posts, I described what we’ve learned from operating StudentAid.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid website created to educate students and borrowers about the federal student aid programs and process and help them make informed decisions about financing college and career school. We first released the site in 2012, but we haven’t sat still yet! The plan has always been to create new and integrate current features that exist on other FSA websites.
In April, comScore released new mobile data, and it pointed to the continuing growth of smartphones as the dominant mobile platform, especially in the United States, with almost a 77% smartphone penetration. Android and Apple continue to dominate the operating system market share with 52.8% and 41.7%, respectively. The report said that “186.3 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones (76.6% mobile market penetration) during the three months ending in February, up 5% since November.
Mobile-friendliness is a must for government. We know there are a number of agencies who have mobile-friendly digital products that we don’t know about, and they deserve their day in the sun. We need your help to find them. So today, at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit you will find the MobileGov Community of Practice Expo Table, where we are kicking off the Great Federal Mobile Product Hunt. The mission of the hunt is simple—find the mobile apps or websites not listed on the registry.
The drum beat of the continuing and quick cultural shift to mobile device dominance continues to grow—Google announced that more searches take place on mobile devices than desktops in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. These searches are often driven by ‘need-to-know’ information or utility-based actions (rather than entertainment or more passive consumption), which aligns with a lot of the information and resources government agencies provide on their digital properties.
Just a week after the ‘Mobilegeddon’ shift in Google search engine rankings to favor mobile-friendly sites, comScore released a research report citing that the U.S. had reached a new inflection point—there are now more mobile-only Internet users than desktop-only. What’s even more interesting is the drop desktop-only usage has taken over the past one-year period. comScore sites: Just a year ago, there was still nearly twice the percentage of desktop-only internet users (19.
Smartphones make up 75% of the mobile market—which makes mobile-friendliness a must for government agencies. With the recent update to Google’s search algorithm, or what some are calling Mobilegeddon, the case for building a mobile-friendly site becomes even stronger. For many government organizations, responsive Web design (RWD) has been the answer to their mobile question. While RWD is by no means a panacea, it can provide agencies with a way to reach their customers on many devices with one site.
Park websites on NPS.gov from A (Acadia) to Z (Zion) are now mobile-friendly. Visitors using phones and tablets to visit national park websites now have a user-friendly experience to enhance their virtual visits. Previously, visitors using mobile devices saw a smaller version of the website scaled to fit the size of their screen. Now, the content will adjust to fit small screens while providing the same functionality available to those visiting the site using a desktop or laptop.
Much is being said and written about the coming Mobilegeddon/Mopocalypse on April 21st—the day Google’s ranking algorithm will begin boosting results for mobile-friendly sites and penalizing mobile-unfriendly sites. While some agency websites are mobile-friendly, a great many are not. We will do well to pay attention—almost 25% of traffic on government websites is coming from mobile devices. And if responding to the UX needs of 25% of site visitors is not enough argument, perhaps the Google algorithm update will convince agencies that it’s time to upgrade.
ComScore reported last week that smartphones now make up a whopping 75% of the mobile market. That’s up from 65% just one year ago. This means three-quarters of Americans over the age of 13 now have smartphones, and they are accessing government services with them more and more. This is an undeniable fact because earlier this month the White House announced the Digital Analytics Dashboard. The announcement noted the importance of mobile-friendliness, stating that the Dashboard showed 33% of all traffic to federal sites over a 90-day period came from people using phones and tablets.