I mentioned in my previous post that one of the inevitable priorities that I see coming for Saint Joseph’s University is playing catch-up to the mobile revolution.
At SJU.edu, our website was originally designed with the computer in mind. “Responsive Design” in conjunction with “Mobile First” was a somewhat new concept during the planning stages of this website, and Saint Joseph’s University missed the chance to build a site that worked on both big and small screens. If you’ve ever tried browsing our site on an iPhone, I know exactly who you are because you have a permanent expression stuck on your face.
So why is mobile and multi-device strategy so important? This seems like such an obvious question considering how almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays.
Of course mobile web strategy is important because we want to be able to navigate SJU.edu on our phones. As a student/faculty/staff member, we probably visit the SJU website several times a week. But I want to take a moment to explain the importance of mobile strategy for our world audience—the people whose first impression of us is likely via the website.
All the possible reasons why the smartphone has become more and more relevant for the University’s comprehensive digital strategy lead to one simple thing: sheer convenience.
The Convenience of Convergence
When you look at the smartphone, it’s packed full of all the goodies that used to be in multiple, distinct devices. In addition to the phone being a cell phone, it’s also our email, calendar, web browser, search engine, gaming device, world map, camera, video player, audio recorder, calculator… you get the point. The convergence of these technologies has already happened, and the convergence will continue to happen beyond our imagination.
The fact that all of these gadgets and computer applications converged into a small device in the palm of our hand is extraordinarily convenient, and it makes the smartphone the most effective communication device above anything else we’ve ever had.
The Convergence of Communication
On the day that all of our communication tools converged into one tiny gadget, it changed the way we conduct communication forever. The convergence of these technologies resulted in collapsing and unifying our daily communication channels; our phone, text messaging, email, web browser, search, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all became much more interconnected on the smartphone because of how freely we jump back and forth between the assortment of communication channels.
The Finale can’t be Clunky and Un-integrated
The website is often the final destination in a digital marketing campaign.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever clicked on a link in an email and found yourself on a site that doesn’t work well on your smartphone. What did you do then?
…click, click, DELETE!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever clicked on a link from a Facebook post and found yourself on a website that took too long to load. Did you sit there for minutes on end while the spinning wheel did its thing?
…click, click, CLOSE!
So when the SJU.edu website (which in many cases is supposed to be the finale of a marketing campaign to convey who we are and what we stand for) doesn’t work as expected on the smartphone, people are perfectly fine to swiftly move on. In the world of integrated communications where email messages, texts and social media work perfectly fine on the smartphone, a clunky and un-integrated website is not going to retain the traffic no matter how awesome it looks on a bigger monitor.
Yup, that’s right:
1 smartphone x 1 clunky website = people moving on with life
The Inevitable Facts
Here are some intriguing facts from a variety of sources to illustrate how people are adapting to mobile devices:
- 9% of total web traffic on SJU.edu included mobile & tablet devices in 2012. The amount of mobile & tablet traffic is expected to almost double to 17% by the end of 2013.
- The total of smartphones entering the world was about 3.6 million devices per day in 2012. Compare that to the approximately 371 thousand babies born per day. 
- In 2013, 78% of juniors and seniors in high school had access to mobile devices, and 68% of those students used the mobile devices to browse college websites. 
- 47% of juniors and seniors in high school check email on mobile devices daily, and 67% check at least once per week. 
- 52% of consumers between 18 and 30 years old say their smartphone is now their primary email-reading device. 
- 49 % of consumers of all ages are likely to click on hyperlinks in emails sent from businesses to their mobile phone. 
- 82% of iPhone owners open email on their mobile device. 
- 250 milliseconds can be the difference between a visitor gained vs. lost on a website. 
The use of smartphones has been rising steadily from year to year, and I haven’t seen any indication of these trends tapering off. While many of these numbers are surprising to see, the trend of the increasing importance of smartphones is very much in line with our expectations.
The biggest takeaway from these statistics for me is that smartphone users expect to be able to access everything from anywhere at anytime, and very quickly. Being a smartphone user myself, I know this to be true.
So What Next?
Transforming SJU.edu into a mobile-friendly site should be at the forefront of the University’s website priorities. Sure, there are many other priorities, but establishing a mobile-friendly website as an integral piece of the overall digital strategy for Saint Joseph’s University will be the foundation for enabling other impactful initiatives and improvements we carry out on our website, now and in the future.
Remodeling a big website like ours to be mobile-friendly at every tier and every page, however, is going to be a long process that takes a lot of planning. Going mobile is a big shift in how content contributors across the University will need to think of the website, and a large part of the webteam’s job will also be to guide them in creating concise, task-focused content for our mobile visitors.
While the entire transformation may take several years, we plan on taking incremental steps to implement “Responsive Design” in manageable chunks so that we can see timely results on the most visible (and most visited) pages of SJU.edu.
The first such baby step that we’ve recently taken is the introduction of mobile-friendly landing pages at i.sju.edu and m.sju.edu. (Go ahead and try them on your smartphone.) This is not the perfect solution, but it’s a small step in the right direction. Next up will likely be a template overhaul at the top-tier of the website so that the smartphone experience from the homepage down to the main sections of the site is seamless and uninterrupted.
- Wroblewski, Luke. Data Monday: Mobile Devices Per Day. lukew.com. May 20, 2013.
- Noel-Levitz, LLC. 2013 E-Expectations Report: The Impact of Mobile Browsing on the College Search Process. noellevitz.com. October 7, 2013.
- Constant Contact, Inc. Constant Contact and Chadwick Martin Bailey Study: Three-Quarters of Consumers ‘Highly Likely’ to Delete Emails They Can’t Read on Mobile Devices. news.constantcontact.com. August 13, 2013.
- Lohr, Steve. For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait. The New York Times. nytimes.com. February 29, 2012.