|What device did you use last time you went online? A smartphone? A tablet? If so, you’ll be far from alone, as figures from Statcounter show that mobile web usage has overtaken desktop devices for the first time. Indeed, 51.3% of web pages were accessed on mobile devices in October 2016, compared with less than 25% three years earlier.
This trend is clearly being reflected in the amount of time people now spend on their handsets. Indeed, new figures from Statista show that the average person in the UK now spends more than 2 hours a day glued to their smartphones.
So should public sector organisations with an online presence be responding to this change in people’s habits?
People want state services online
According to research by Fujitsu, people in the UK are increasingly expecting more from the digital services currently offered by public sector bodies. This, it stated, is being partly fuelled by advances in the private sector, as improvements in areas such as online banking have pushed up people’s expectations across the board. However, as Fujitsu rightly notes, the public sector ‘does not have a choice of exclusion,’ whereas anyone unhappy with a private sector body’s digital services can simply switch to a new provider. This means digital services must be tailored for the devices that people are using, so users can get the best possible experience regardless of whether they are on their smartphone or home computer.
Some councils still lagging behind
According to research by Better Connected, more than 1 in 10 councils have not yet optimised their websites for smartphone users. Of course, this also means that an impressive 89 % of local authorities do have mobile-optimised websites – and this is well up on the 57% recorded in 2015 and 80% in 2016. But that still means a significant proportion of councils are lagging behind and perhaps failing to engage with their target audience as well as they could do. Gov.uk recently revealed that desktop visits to its site fell from 54% to 51% this year – a clear sign that members of the public are increasingly happy to interact with government departments via mobile devices. Other state services should therefore be making it easy for people to do the same, offering responsive and functional mobile sites with strong usability.
What format works best?
According to the Better Connected study, the best mobile sites are those without cluttered home pages. This means each section is clearly labelled, with links to each sub-section easily identifiable. The need for an uncluttered format is one reason why many private sector organisations have tweaked their logo in recent years, as simpler and leaner logos load and render more easily on mobile devices. Public sector bodies could look at adopting a similar approach, and ensure they are branding themselves consistently by adding the revised logo to other promotional materials, from leaflets and notepads to pens and table cloths and display banners.
Tell people about digital services
According to Fujitsu’s study, nearly 4 in 10 consumers want Britain to move towards a digital future more quickly, while a similar proportion agree more must be done to educate people both on what digital services are available and how they can be used.
It is therefore key for public sector organisations to make sure they not only improve their online user experience, but also let people know what changes have been made and what positive differences they will make.
Sources / Further reading
Almost all council websites now optimised for mobile devices Public Sector Executive
The digital transformation of the UK public sector Information Age
Digital Inside Out. Creating a digital-first Britain Fujitsu
Mobile web usage overtakes desktop for first time The Telegraph