The web is dying. Despite more access than ever before, there were 4% fewer people using the web on their computers in 2012 than the year before. The amount of time people are spending on the web is also dropping: from 72 minutes per day in 2011 to 70 minutes in 2012. This is a small change, but the trend will continue. The reason? By all accounts, it is because the web is becoming too cluttered and too cumbersome. Instead, people are spending time on apps and mobile devices, which are not only cleaner and more user-friendly, but also contain fewer ads (at least for now).

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 12.41.49 PMThe average iPhone owner already has 108 apps and spent 127 minutes a day using them in 2012 (up from 94 minutes in 2011); numbers for Android users are comparable. That is already almost double the time the average person currently spends on the web. Of course, part of the reason we’re increasingly using apps instead of the web is that we’re mobile, but that’s only part of the story, as anyone who prefers to use their iPad rather than their laptop knows. A weather app is not only more convenient than watching the evening news; it’s also more convenient than going to weather.com.

The rise of mobile isn’t doing the web any favors, and by all accounts, mobile is skyrocketing. It more than doubled in 2011 for the fourth year in a row. Cisco predicts that mobile traffic will increase by a factor of 18 in the next five years.  That growth will come at the expense of the web. It should be noted that this doesn’t necessarily mean that all that traffic will be apps; smartphones and tablets come equipped with web browsers, and almost all major websites (and many smaller ones) offer mobile versions of their content. Mobile versions are often simpler, pared down, and curated versions of the real thing—just like an app.
Apps on an iPhone
Clearly, mobile sites must be small in order to accommodate the small physical size of a mobile phone. But that’s only part of the story. Mobile sites are small because there is now more value, more utility, in offering less. The web has hit its breakpoint under the weight of having too much of a good thing. The newer, more nimble mobile net is cutting through the clutter in the same way that search engines cut through the clutter of the early World Wide Web.

What does all this mean for your small business?

The most important thing is to be cognizant of what platforms your customers prefer. Your hours of operation, contact information, directions and the like should be available in places where your customers visit. This could mean Yelp, Google Maps, or industry-specific directories. Rather than expecting your customers to visit your website directly, go to them in the media which they are most familiar. Of course there are some customers who will visit your website, and they are more likely than ever to do it from a phone or tablet. So it’s in your best interest to make sure your company’s site is mobile friendly or offer a separate mobile version. Additionally, small business owners who currently use banner ads or other web-based advertising may want to consider advertising in relevant apps. As your customers shift from the web to apps and the mobile web, the best thing you can do for your business is to stay one step ahead.

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[CC photo credit to Sean MacEntee]