Mobile Web Technology Report

We’ve just released a report into mobile web technology usage on the web. It’s interesting to see the lack of mobile specific web sites that are currently available in comparison to the amount of apps there are in App Stores. We expect this to change in the near future though, take a look at the report below to get an idea of the coverage and technology usage within the top million sites.

You can download this report as a PDF or as standalone HTML.


Introduction

The growth of the mobile web is staggering, with approximately 726 million people having access to a 3G mobile subscription1. With a forecasted increase in growth it seems logical that website owners would begin to offer a mobile alternative of their websites due to the different in experience between using the web with a desktop computer and a mobile device.

Mobile and Web History

At the start of the 21st century screen resolutions were increasing as graphics cards became more sophisticated and cheaper, LCD monitors provided higher resolution and lower prices for consumers. In January 2000, 56% of visitors to w3schools.com were using 800×600 as their default browser resolution, by January 2011 hardly any of them were2. This trend meant that web designers started using 1024×768 as the de facto minimum website resolution over 5 years ago3.

The recent growth of mobile has seen the production of devices such as the Apple iPhone, Google’s Android Stack, Microsoft Windows Phone and BlackBerry all supporting resolutions below the 1024×768 desktop standard, as well as new methods of interaction with a website, such as dragging and clicking with your finger, over the desktop standard of using a mouse.

The mobile internet is a paradigm shift from how the web has been built over the past few years and website designers, developers and owners are beginning to see the benefits it can bring.


Trends

BuiltWith.com has been compiling weekly trends of website technology usage since 2008. The user agent for these requests appears to the website as a normal desktop browser and not as a mobile device. The trends below show how even without requesting content as a mobile device trends in mobile technology have been increasing.

Meta Viewport

The viewport meta tag was originally designed by Apple to resize the layout viewport of a website, a requirement for the mobile device to understand how the website designer has defined how the content should be displayed to the end user. Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and iPhone all support the viewport meta tag4.

The graph below shows the growth of the viewport meta tag usage within the top 10,000 sites between November 2008 and July 2011 whilst serving content supplied with a desktop usage agent –




Unearthing the Mobile Web

BuiltWith.com visited the websites of the top million sites using a mobile device user agent signature to determine which websites are displaying mobile specific content to these users by comparing the technologies found against the same website visits with a computer desktop user agent.

Top 100 Sites

Of the top 100 sites most visited on the internet5, 71 of them have content specifically designed for mobile devices. The remaining 29 either do not support mobile devices or, depending on the device, prompt the user about a device specific application.

Top Million Sites

Approximately 39,000 sites (3.9%) within the top million most visited sites on the Internet report the content as non-scaleable, a strong indicator that the content is designed specifically for a mobile device. 6% of the sites report a viewport meta tag, which suggests the sites are at a minimum, aware of mobile users.

Mobile Technology Usage

On the latest mobile devices desktop technologies can be reused due to mobile browsers having fully capabale JavaScript and CSS rendering engines, however, some JavaScript libraries and frameworks have been developed that provide explict functionality for mobile devices.

jQTouch is currently the most used Mobile JavaScript library in the top million sites, shortly followed by JQuery Mobile, both of which are extensions of JQuery, the most popular JavaScript library used on the web.


Conclusion

The current evolution of mobile devices provide us with low/medium resolution devices with simple easy to use finger based gestures. The human body is the weakest link in the evolution of mobile, the hardware resolution may improve but a website designed for 1024×768 pixels will still look small to our eyes on devices designed to fit in the palm of our hands.

With mobile device usage increasing the the prevalence of data technologies such as 3G it is predicted more websites will support mobile devices in the years to come as websites owners see a shift in their visitor traffic to mobile.


References

  1. Google Think Mobile 2011 Kleiner Perkins -http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//events/thinkmobile2011/pdfs/10-mobile-trends.pdf
  2. W3schools Browser Display Statistics
    http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_resolution_higher.asp
  3. Jakob Nielsen Screen Resolution and Page Layout
    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/screen_resolution.html
  4. Quirksmode – a tale of two viewports part two
    http://www.quirksmode.org/mobile/viewports2.html
  5. Quantcast Top Sites
    http://www.quantcast.com/top-sites-1

Gary

Founder at BuiltWith
Gary is co-founder of BuiltWith and lives in Sydney, Australia.