The desktop had 100% of the web traffic
I remember when I read in one edition of the IEEE Network magazine (World Wide Web: whence, whither, what next? - Volume 10 Issue 2 • March-April 1996) about several competing Internet clients to navigate content on the Internet. At that time, it was not sure what system was going to prevail, and the choices were WWW, Gopher, WAIS, Archie, GNN, among others. The article claimed that “The World Wide Web (WWW) has become, next to electronic mail, the most popular Internet application.” In the following years, the Web as we know emerged and we enjoyed the golden age of the desktop-web navigation. There was nothing else to navigate the web. So, we visited sites from our desktops, and later from our notebooks. When Joomla 1.0 was launched in 2005, a website had 100% of the visitors navigating from a desktop.
As a consequence, we can reasonably affirm that the current architecture is based on this original definition of how Joomla generates the HTML Document and how it delivers the associated assets. Since the HTML standard is a living standard, it supports the original definitions incrementally. Joomla and the rest of the CMSs have been working mainly in the same way since the beginning. We can foresee that we can’t continue on the same path forever.
Today, the smartphone has 80-90% of the web traffic
The iPhone 3G appeared in 2008, and the mobile market has had to mature for years. However, now there is one absolute truth, the users navigate the web with smart devices: mobile phones and tablets.
The claim that the smartphone has 80-90% of the web traffic is based on the sites that I manage. To visualize the stats of the smart device navigation, nothing better than an excellent presentation The New Mobile Reality - Alex Russell (Google) and the GSM Association’s The Mobile Economy 2018 report. My notes from these sources are:
- 57% of connections are from smartphones, and the trend will top at 77% in 2025.
- 71% of the connections are 2G and 3G. Reliable performance on slow connections matters.
- 53% of mobile visits abandon a site if the page load takes more than 3 seconds.
Furthermore, from comScore’s The Global Mobile Report 2017, we can have a good measure of the audience and how they interact with the online media:
- Individual users spend over 95% of the time in their top 10 apps, dominated by social and IM.
- The longer tail of categories still relies heavily on the desktop (Education, Government, B2B, Automotive)
- Mobile-only usage correlates strongly with mobile time. Mobile-only usage is not restricted to demographic extremes.
- More than 80% of mobile minutes in all markets are spent on apps.
- The refined user experience and functionality of apps have led to their dominance of mobile time. App time is universally a larger contributor than mobile web.
We, the developers of the original web
As a corollary, we, the developers of the original web, while we are sitting in our office creating the perfect website in a desktop setup, we are a marginal case; and we do not longer represent the current big chunk of the web traffic. This is the time to take a good grasp of our shiny mobile, enable the development mode, turn on the USB and develop websites (or apps) only for them.
In the past, we could develop and test the same user web experience from our cozy desktop. Now, we don’t. We need to develop the websites in a desktop and test in a mobile device. It could be a simulated device, but we must also test on real mobile setup. Otherwise, we miss the whole point of the mobile experience.
A CMS for this era
As I wrote in the previous post, there is no CMS for this era yet. However, the playfield is taking shape, and the big players are taking the lead to define how the mobile web is going to be navigated. Let’s review the current primary trends.
Talk to me, Google
Google has a lot to say about how the search engine and the Android operating system navigate the web. By May 2010, Android had a 10% worldwide smartphone market share. In the second quarter of 2014, Android's share of the global smartphone shipment market was 84.7%, a new record. This had grown to 87.5% worldwide market share by the third quarter of 2016. Google strategy is so successful that it has already been judged and declared guilty to pay a billionaire fine due to the monopoly and change the current business practice.
As a first attempt to translate the traditional web in Google terms, they have given us Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an HTML custom language to clean and represent the content for the search engine. A controversial solution, but we can’t avoid it since it is a part of Google search strategy. As a first attempt to support it, we have several extensions on JED that can help on the task to incorporate AMP page to a site.
SEO for the next decade
The second attempt to improve the web content for the mobile navigation is the Progressive Web technology. In this opportunity, PWA is backed by web standards, a set of features for browsers. These features are inspired in what is already available in the mobile apps, and they are oriented to empower the web to be on the same foot than mobile apps. Google is championing the new game in Chrome, and the rest of the big players of the browser market (Firefox, Apple, and Microsoft) are following.
Arguably, the new progressive features for the web are the Search Engine Optimization for the future. To start measuring the compliance with the new SEO, Google has given us a handy checklist and a tool called “Lighthouse”. You can use Lighthouse online on Web.dev, in Chrome or as a command line. The results are the same, a quick audit about how a website performs in a mobile device.
The Lighthouse audit the site simulates the visit of a Nexus 5X on a simulated Fast 3G network; and measures the following scores:
- Progressive Web App,
- Best Practices, and
This is a Lighthouse report from Joomla.org home page:
Our most painful pain points are the “First Contentful Paint”, “First Meaningful Paint” (when the user can view something) and “Eliminate render-blocking resources” (assets that prevent the browser to show the content while they are being downloaded or processed). For every second of delay, more users left the page without visiting the content.
From the web.dev site, this is a similar report generated for another site of the Joomla.org ecosystem.
To show a point of comparison, this is the Lighthouse output from a TYPO3 showcase site, tailored to perform well on these metrics:
In the next articles of this series, I will continue in detail the analysis of these reports.
Since our sites, and the technology that empowers them, have been developed in the previous decade for a desktop user in a high-speed network, we need to refocus how to develop new websites with new strategies. It is not something that we can fix upgrading a CSS framework, or compressing the assets.
As you can anticipate, most of the current websites do not perform well since content systems have been developed with a different mindset; and Google is supporting the advance of the progressive technology field to improve the general average web performance. Right now, Google already ranks mobile-friendly sites higher. With time, we can expect lower rankings for desktop-oriented sites. To be clear, it means fewer visits to your sites in the long term. It is not going to change overnight, but it is evolving to favor sites with a modern mobile experience.
What about Apple
Apple has a strong position in the premium market. However, when we talk about the raw number of users, iOS has a 12.1% market share, and they have earned the phrase “Safari is the new Internet Explorer” due to lagging behing.
Talking to Mobile Phones
The Talking to Humans book invites us to understand our customers, getting out of the office, talking directly with customers and partners as a way to look for answers, beyond the source code that we write. Following the same reasoning, our users use mobile phones during a good part of the day, so this is our call to modernize our systems for mobile-only usage.
The software that we use today was designed during a period of web-desktop development (10+ years). We can talk and discuss mobile features from an analytical point of view, but we are biased to develop software for the desktop-web paradigm. So, numbers are the best way to analyze objectively what must be changed.
The picture is clear. All software stacks must be optimized for the mobile-only access. Otherwise, our users will move to different platforms. A modernization project can be traumatic for the community used to the old ways. In the case of Joomla modernization, the project is backed by a community and a consensus must be reached about how to adopt the new web practices before entering into a new phase of such impact.
We need a new vision to deliver a 100% progressive web experience, by default, automatically, without a massive knowledge of the inner workings of the CMS-browser interaction, for the regular Joomla user benefit. Again, the opportunity to shape the field is here, and the real question is how far do we want to boldly go.