Mobile Usage Exceeds Desktop On Gov Uk For The First Time

I find the gov.uk website an endless resource of great knowledge on a cross-section of ‘real’ users in the UK, so while browsing the GOV UK performance stats today I spotted this:

GOV UK Browser usage - DEC 2016 - JAN 2017

WOW. I think this is quite an important moment. For the first time the paradigm shift from desktop to mobile is significant enough that GOV.UK and its services needs to think mobile first. More significantly we appear to be almost at the tipping point in the UK where we access the internet more on smartphones than desktops.

While techies have waxed lyrical for years that mobile outstrips desktop, that data is realted to tasks often associated with micro-transactions, or limited attention tasks, such as social media, consuming news, e-commerece etc. I’ve found the GOV UK website a good counter-point to this data. Most UK residents will have to use the website at some point, to do meaningful things, that can affect their life in a significant way.

It struck me this data might be a minor blip, so I zoomed out and looked at the data in a wider context. I rolled the stats back to Apr 2013 (the earliest permitted) and saw 2 interesting things:

GOV UK Browser usage - DEC 2016 - JAN 2017

1) The rise of mobile and decline of desktop is really evident here, over the (about) 3 year period.

2) The other thing that caught my eye, is the bump that happens every December without fail. Desktops decline and mobiles rise. Ideal speculation on my part is that this is the percentage of users accessing at work on a desktop machine, that instead use their mobile over the christmas period while not at work. This could mean the current state of mobile exceeding desktop will drop next month, but if the pattern continues it will be almost an even split by the end of 2017, with 2018 being the year mobile exceeds desktop outright.

3) Tablet device usage seems almost ‘stuck’ and is barely rising at all. This also seems significant, but I’m not sure what to make of it. Considering the government services are largely informational or form driven, tablet seems a good device to use for this, but its uptake has barely increased at all over the 3 year period.

This data dispells some myths I often hear, proving:

1) There is no real scenario that something is ‘so important’ users will only do it at a desktop machine to ‘do it properly’. Users clearly feel mobile is up to the task and are doing these tasks successfully.

2) There isn’t really anything a user won’t do on a mobile phone if they can. Enable them and get out of the way so they get it done.