Since 2017, more than 50% of all internet traffic has been mobile, and that share is only going to go up.
When the internet was first conceived, the entire concept revolved around home computers accessing vast networks of information. Over time, communication, in the form of email and forums, developed to use the same network as the web – but the concept of interconnected computers in fixed locations stayed the same.
With the advent of the first wireless telecommunications, and then smartphones and mobile computing, the internet gradually became a framework for far more complex systems based around the capabilities that the new hardware and infrastructure offered.
Time to rethink web development
This change in usage has forced a profound rethink of how web designers approach design problems. Whereas for many years, web design thinking was based around standard horizontal screens, delivering variations of the sort of information and content that somebody might need in an office or enjoy at home, mobile web development has required a metaphoric and literal 90 degree shift in approach.
The basics of web design haven’t changed – website still need to be interesting, easy to navigate, and give viewers what they want as easily as possible – but with developments like touch screens, vertical viewing, and a far greater premium of viewing real estate, the parameters have shifted dramatically.
Hardware X content providers
Another major change has been the relationship between hardware and the content that websites provide. For much of the early period of home computing, the push towards better hardware was driven in part by a desire to get the best possible experience of internet use. With relatively few hardware and operating system options available, hardware upgrades tended to have a reciprocal relationship with software and web developers.
In the mobile landscape, that has changed massively, with new hardware and software options launched on an almost monthly basis. This has switched a lot of the emphasis on driving change over to the web developers, with the thinking being that if they can create new systems and frameworks, it will be in the hardware developers’ own interest to support it – at the risk of losing customers when they’re deciding on their next upgrade if they don’t.
Mobile demands new functionalities
Perhaps the greatest change in web development has been the increase in functionality provided – and required – by mobile technology. Initially this manifested in that most simple of functions, the online map. Where once maps and directions were printed out from desktop computers, mobile computing has advanced the possibilities rapidly – from simply showing a user where they are, to adding local information, traffic conditions, transit options and routing. Similar progressions have taken place in communications – from sms to video calling, and many other initially basic computing functions.
The challenge for truly innovative mobile development companies now is not so much finding the limits of what’s possible with current technology, but also looking for gaps in functionality that are likely to be filled in the near future.
Mobile computing is developing faster than ever, and with new functions appearing with every new device, finding novel ways to seamlessly incorporate them into handheld devices in everyday life is the key to success for startups, product designers and development agencies.