University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Using Google Analytics I have been monitoring the trends of visitors using mobile devices to access our website. Looking only at stats for the first week of the semester, mobile access has increased from 1.4% in Fall 2009 to 5.2% in Spring 2010. We do not have a mobile app nor do we have a mobile site so these are mobile browser users. The most popular devise is the iPhone, followed by Android.

 

Is this similar to trends you are seeing at your institution?

 

Dave

 

 

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Hi Dave

I used to be the Web and Publications Manager at Derby University in the UK www.derby.ac.uk until Nov 2010 and yes, this is very similar to what we were seeing. Last analytics showed mobile access made up 6% or all visits, compared to just 1% 6 months earlier.

And yes, iPhone first (way out front), then Android, then iPad.

Like you, we did not have a mobile site or app.

But it's pretty compelling evidence to create one I feel, don't you?

Lucy

Lucy, Given the budget constraints we are facing, I don't think 5% or 6% browsing via mobile device justifies the rerouting of resources (time, staff, and $$) to develop and maintain a mobile dedicated app or site. I do think the increases justify more clarification, for example; Are all the current mobile users satisfied with their browsing experience?; and How many mobile owners don't visit the website with their devise becuase there is not an app, or mobile site?

 

Dave

 

 

Yes, fair enough Dave. I must admitt that I did have one rather astronomical quote for a mobile version of key aspects of the site, so our next steps were going to be to do more research into just who was browsing by mobile and what they were looking at, who might consider browsing by mobile in future etc, to see if marketing spend on an app or mobile site for potential students would be justified.

 

So perhaps "compelling evidence to investigate further" would have been more apt phrasing!

 

Lucy

If your primary content is fairly portable, you're talking about one-time setup with intermittent maintenance. By portable, I mean that the mobile version could feed off RSS, XML, and API data so that the content is automated.

Note that because GA uses JavaScript your mobile numbers may be a little bit low. Some mobile browsers don't handle JS at all. I doubt it'll make a huge difference but you never know.

 

We've seen a similar increase though we have a mobile website. To open our Spring semester our mobile site saw 11% of the traffic our home page did. Android has been beating out iPhone on our campus but not iOS total. For what it's worth the calendar and campus map account for most of the usage of our site. I wrote up a decent blog post at the beginning of the fall on our usage patterns. I really should revisit that data this week.

http://www.dmolsen.com/mobile-in-higher-ed/?p=117

Dave Olsen - Are you using GA or another program to get the mobile info?

 

Our top content accessed during the first week of the Spring 2011 semester was Fee payment info, Academic Calendar, Campus Map, and Student Club info. I don't know yet if this mirrors the top content for mobile users.

The JS issue is one that concerns me as we look to incorporate more JS within our site. I predict the direction we will eventually all be going is one where we adapt a universal design approach to website development so that one site can accomodate the various platforms, browsers, and devices of the users (similar to one website accomodating screen view and print by tweaking the style sheet). Dave Mulder, your comment about portable content may be hitting on this.

I think apps are great for specific purposes, but in my opinion an edu site supports too many specific needs to rely on an app to take care of them all.

Dave

We record all page views for our mobile site in a database. It's the easiest way to get correct information because of the non-JS issue. There is also GA for mobile sites if you're ever curious: http://code.google.com/mobile/analytics/docs/web/ But in general I don't trust GA to be accurate. It's good for general loyalty and what not but using a database or log file is the best way to review mobile usage data.

 

I think the notion of universal design with respect to mobile is a bit of a myth. At least for complicated services (e.g. campus map or calendar). When I first started down the path for mobile I thought it was going to be that easy but, as I've found, the best solution, as annoying as it sounds, is really providing a completely different view for users based on device class. Context and functionality differ so much from a desktop environment to a mobile environment that it's tough to have one set of data only be modified by a stylesheet or media queries and still supply quality information.

 

I do agree with Dave M's notion of portable content but I think that comes at an API level. Or maybe that's what you meant by "one site." At some point their will have to be a prioritization of which services get "mobilized." I don't think a school will ever be able to make everything mobile-friendly nor should they. 

 

And not sure if it's helpful but I wrote up a blog post on what I thought was a reasonable approach to a progressive mobile strategy. I talk a little bit more about the importance of APIs in it.

 

http://www.dmolsen.com/mobile-in-higher-ed/?p=123

This is a good read, thanks.

We don't use GA directly on our homepage because of privacy concerns, but we do use it on our search site and that has seen definite growth in over the last year in mobile browsers hitting it. It's up to 3% on that site.

 

I suspect, though, that a lot of mobile folks are turned off by our weighty homepage which takes a while to load over 3G connection. So our 3% must be a bit low.

We don't use GA directly on our homepage because of privacy concerns

 

Just curious, what privacy concerns do you have with GA?

Mostly, the concern has been data ownership by a third party. If some organization (government or otherwise) wants this data, it's beneficial for the decision of releasing it to belong to you. When you run GA, you are giving away the right to make that decision (Google makes it for you).

 

We are moving toward endorsing GA use on our campus by writing a privacy policy, which GA requires its users to post.

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