Mobile devices accounted for 16.2 percent of worldwide internet traffic in 2013. Six years later that percentage more than tripled, with mobile devices making up 52.2 percent of internet traffic in 2019. According to the Pew Research Center, one in four U.S. adults does not own a laptop or desktop computer, but 96 percent do own a cell phone.
The way people access information digitally has changed dramatically within the past decade. It has switched from desktop devices to mobile phones and tablets. What does this mean for local governments? How can they prioritize building mobile friendly websites so that all members of their community have equally accessible public information?
It is not enough to presume that users can search for a municipality’s website from a mobile device. In order to build on the benefits outlined below, it is important that municipality websites be optimized for mobile. Otherwise, users will be discouraged from seeking information and engaging with the website because the website may be too slow to load or difficult to navigate, potentially causing people to miss important, need-to-know information.
Here are the reasons why government websites should be mobile friendly:
#1. It establishes your website as a credible source for information
Google reported that people who have a negative experience on their mobile devices are 62 percent less likely to make a purchase in the future and interact with that website in general. While this number represents a monetary exchange, the same idea extends to the exchange of information between the content creator and the end-user – in this case, the citizen seeking information from the government website.
A user who has a bad experience with a mobile website is less likely to go back in the future. Government websites should have positive credibility already established with their citizens so that in times of need, such as a natural disaster, public health emergency or other incidents, their mobile website is a trustworthy, credible place to go to when seeking information.
#2. It provides more immediate information
Information is needed fast during an emergency. The same Google report on mobile activity found that 75 percent of smartphone owners will use their mobile devices before using a desktop or laptop when they need to search something. Websites optimized for mobile devices are not only ranked higher in search engines, they allow the end user to find information more quickly. In addition, websites optimized for mobile devices load faster than non-optimized websites. Studies have shown that approximately half of all people will abandon a website that takes too long to load.
#3. Mobile sites reach a broader range of the population
Forbes reported that 85 percent of low-income Americans have bought smartphones, as they are much cheaper and more functional than traditional desktops. Many low-income adults depend entirely on smartphones for their internet connections, to obtain their news, manage finances, as well as to learn more about government services and programs that can assist them. When municipalities aren’t prioritizing their mobile web presence, they are effectively cutting off access to a vulnerable portion of the population.
As the methods of accessing information change, it is the responsibility of governments to change along with it. Developing mobile-optimized websites with the necessary government information people need is the first step in the process, with the ultimate goal of ensuring credible, fast and equal access to information that is available to all citizens in every municipality.