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‘Content is king’ has rightly been the long-time mantra for anyone looking to make their websites compelling for visitors, but developments in the digital arena have added a new element: context.

Mobility is the word on everyone’s lips. StatCounter says worldwide internet usage through mobile devices – not including tablets – almost doubled from 4.3% to 8.5% between January 2011 and 2012. Cisco is forecasting 78% compound annual growth in mobile data traffic over the next five years.

Against that backdrop, our clients are increasingly asking questions about whether they need to have apps for iPhone or Android, how to accommodate tablet users, or if a website optimised for mobile is more appropriate. It’s good that the conversations are happening, but in our experience too many people are coming to the table with preconceptions about what platform they plan to work with. Becoming a slave to the technology means you’re at risk of putting off visitors because your app doesn’t give them what they want, when they want it.

Now is the time to think about the wider context and not just jump onto the latest touchscreen-powered bandwagon. The bigger issue for clients to consider in their digital strategy is that mobility isn’t just about what people look at; it completely changes where and how people will interact with what you present to them. From a design standpoint, that means focusing on the experience rather than just the aesthetics.

Consider the mindset of a person sitting at a desk using their PC on a Monday morning. The kind of information they are looking for – and how they consume – will be framed by the environment they’re in. That very same person might be in the pub on a Friday night, using their smartphone to search for trivia to settle a bet with a friend, or they could be at home watching TV on a Saturday night with their iPad on their lap as they follow a conversation on Twitter.

A good example of context in action was the high level of traffic to some of our high-end retail clients on Christmas day. Over a quarter of the visits logged came from mobile devices, which tells us straight away that iPads and iPhones are personal devices that people are using in a very different way to the workhorse PC of yore. Tablets are built for consumption; the user experience changes even before they start to use the interface.

What’s more, clients must start designing for active users as opposed to passive ones. People don’t just visit websites any more, they tour them and they bring others with them.

We’re also noticing a shift away from the very binary ‘like’ experience of Facebook towards more context-driven activity. It can’t be a coincidence that Facebook itself is broadening its category of verbs, which opens up huge possibilities for marketers. In a similar vein, Pinterest is also quietly gaining popularity with its ‘virtual cork board’ approach to social sharing. All of these developments reinforce the idea that when it comes to digital in 2012, context is king.

Full article available here: "Context Is King" by Colin Meagle

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