Mobile users want fresh data

Summary: Mobile web users’ needs differ by more than UI features (small touch screen): they may check information more often, and expect it to be fresher.

Last night, I finally got around to installing Google Analytics on ourairports.mobi, the mobile version (for pre-smartphones) of ourairports.com, and this morning, I got my first stats: all of 3 visits yesterday (vs. 1,677 for the non-mobile site).

I expect that number to climb when the site is collecting stats for a complete 24-hour day, but already, I’ve noticed a significant difference in use:

Site Visits Page views Pages/visit
Mobile 3 93 31.00
Desktop 1,677 4,748 2.83

Of course, the mobile sample is too small to be statistically significant, but it still made me think about how a mobile user will use the site:

  • A desktop user at home may check information for an airport once while planning a flight (as pilot or airline passenger).
  • A mobile user, at or on the way to the airport, will keep checking for changes (new weather forecast, NOTAMs, etc.), constantly updating the same few pages.

A closer look at the analytics confirms that hypothesis, with a small number of airports updated multiple times (there were four pageviews for Sunbury Airfield in Australia, for example).

Further hypothesis: timely data is important for all web users, but it may be disproportionately important for mobile users. If this is true, it’s probably worth spending less time trying to make your mobile site (or app) look like a fourth-year graphic design college project, and more time making sure that it has the best, and most recent information.

I’ll watch the analytics for ourairports.mobi over the next month to see if this trend continues.

About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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