Mobile Usage Exceeds Desktop On GOV.UK For First Time

The GOV.UK website user data is finally showing the mobile future, we were all promised.

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

GOV.UK Browser usage - DEC 2016 - JAN 2017

I think this is 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. It would appear to be almost at the tipping point in the UK where we access the internet more on smartphones than desktops.

Techies have waxed lyrical for years that mobile outstrips desktop. This data is on average relationship to tasks associated with micro-transactions, or limited attention tasks. I have found the UK government site a good counter-point to this data. Most UK residents will have to use the site 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 evident here over the near 3 year time frame.

2) Another thing that caught my eye. 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 holidays 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. 2018 being the year mobile exceeds desktop outright.

3) Tablet device usage seems almost ‘stuck’ and receiving a minor bump. This also seems significant, but I am not sure what to make of it. Considering the government services are informational or form driven, tablet seems a good device to use for this. Tablet uptake is low over the 3 years.

This data dispels some myths I often hear, proving:

1) There is no real scenario that something is ‘so important’ users will do it at a desktop machine to ‘do it properly’. Users 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.