State of the Web 2016

The web is always changing. Here's our take on the most important trends in 2016 and what comes next.

Since starting at Viget over four years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to share a ‘State of the Web’ presentation at many of our quarterly ‘Third Third Thursday’ (TTT) events. These talks offer the chance to explore and share key trends in our industry, and they’re just one of the ways Viget works to stay ahead of the curve.

You can watch the Fall 2016 presentation below, or keep scrolling to read the highlights:

Mobile Growth

It should come as no surprise that mobile traffic is the present and the future. According to some sources, mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop worldwide. This holiday season, comScore predicts that retailers will see three times more traffic from mobile than from desktop.

While this growth is obvious even in the U.S., it’s especially prominent in middle and low-income nations. Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia and India see mobile account for over 66% of their internet usage.

At Viget, some of our clients serve local, U.S.-heavy audiences while others are international brands serving users around the globe. While knowledge of general global trends are invaluable, we’ve found that every one of our clients’ sites exhibits a unique audience footprint.

The chart below compares the mobile share of traffic from a handful of our clients to the global average.


While we have some clients with mobile traffic nearing 80% during peak seasons, other clients (particularly those with a heavy B2B focus) have not yet surpassed 15%.

Given that wide disparity, it’s imperative that we evaluate each new project with fresh eyes and tailor our approach to their unique audience and needs, rather than prescribing an approach based on general heuristics.

Browser Usage

Like the growth of mobile (and very much related), browser usage has continued to shift in recent years away from older, desktop-only browsers such as Internet Explorer toward Chrome and Safari.

Just this year, StatCounter reported that Google’s Chrome browser reached a 50% usage rate worldwide for the first time, due in large part to the prevalence of Android devices across the globe.

But like mobile usage, every client’s use-cases are unique. We see marked differences in browser usage across even recent clients. The Bronx Zoo sees an especially high share of traffic from Safari, largely due it traffic volumes from iOS devices, while JUST Capital’s largely corporate audience exhibits a higher-than-average share of Internet Explorer traffic. In contrast, Viget’s especially tech-savvy audience tends to favor Chrome and Firefox over Internet Explorer.


Online Behavior

As internet access has changed, so to has our behavior online. We’re spending twice as much time online as we were five years ago, and in the past year, 1 out of every 5 online minutes was spent on a social network (typically via mobile devices). Despite constant predictions of its impending demise, Facebook remains the clear monster in this space. It has the largest reach and highest monthly engagement rates, even among millennials.


This level of engagement has far-reaching effects. Pew recently reported that more web users get politics news from Facebook than from traditional sources such as CNN, Fox News or NBC News, a fact that may have even had implications on our recent election.



Mobile News

As more people turn to their mobile devices and their social feeds for real-world news, it’s no surprise that social media companies have taken notice. Just last year, Facebook released Instant Articles, a publishing format that improves content load-times on mobile devices. Under Instant Articles, content is hosted on Facebook and can load up to 10 times faster than a typical site.

Under similar pressure to capture the attention of mobile users, Apple and Google have both released similar publishing platforms in the months following. Data suggests these platforms are performing well for publishers, drawing larger audiences and offering faster user experiences, at the expense of certain branding and content control. Check out Ben's fantastic post for an even deeper dive. 

At Viget, we need to understand the implications these developments have on our work and on our clients’ success, and we also care about the impact these new platforms may have on the web at large.

The Awl’s John Herrmann paints a pretty dystopian picture of one possible scenario:

“A new generation of artists and creative people ceding the still-fresh dream of direct compensation and independence to mediated advertising arrangements with accidentally enormous middlemen apps that have no special interest in publishing beyond value extraction through advertising is the early internet utopian’s worst-case scenario .”

While we’re not quite so jaded yet, it’s important for us to recognize and follow the potential concerns surrounding these new development.

Summary

The web continues to change and evolve. Mobile traffic continues to rise and users are shifting toward more modern browsers. While these general trends hold true across most clients, it’s important that we evaluate each new project independently to identify the unique audience and needs of its specific users.

Separately, the shifting web has led large companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google to develop new platforms that allow them to better serve (and monetize) the growing mobile majority.

Viget continues to monitor, evaluate and act on the fast-moving trends we see across the web and are excited to see it grow and change in the years to come. Have you seen these trends in your own work? Are there other shifts we should be paying attention to? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Mitch is a digital analyst in our Falls Church, VA, HQ. He loves telling powerful stories with data—both verbally and visually—for clients including Dick's Sporting Goods, Valspar, and PUMA.

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