Old vs. New - Defining the Change

Pat Bowen
Pat Bowenposted on on September 28, 2013


When I started writing this blog post I intended it to be some sort of overview of what has changed online and what that means to anyone who is looking to update their online marketing. I failed. The goal was to take all of the factors that have influenced this change and piece them together into some sort of delicious overview pie. Instead I found my pie looked more like the “science” projects I did as a kid where I would randomly grab things out of the fridge and put them in a bowl to “see what happens”.

This hasn’t been a complete failure though. Instead this is an introduction to a series of posts highlighting recent changes to both the technologies consumers use and the ones that we use to develop new digital properties.

Defining Change

There are a few of things that became stunningly clear as research progressed:

  • So many thing have changed over the past five to ten years that it makes singling out the important factors incredibly difficult.
  • The rate of change is fast and it’s getting faster.
  • It all works together: The devices that are used to view digital properties define how things are developed. The types of activities performed online set expectations for what needs to be done online. The way we code and program pushes standards forward faster than they can be standardized. The speed at which “standards” are set speeds up the cycle at which both software and hardware updates are delivered.

Complete Upheaval

I hear almost daily that we, as a society, live in the now and lack perspective because we’re always worried about what happened thirty seconds ago. In the world of mobile technology I just got hit with a dose of that reality. I read monthly and quarterly mobile OS market share statistics trying to see if there are trends in who is using what system and what we should develop for. This short-term view completely misses the big picture.

Here’s something to think about: In December of 2007 90%+ of the smartphone market was controlled by Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Blackberry OS, while in December of 2012 ~90% of the market is controlled by iOS and Android.(source)

Two companies that had almost zero market now dominate it. Can you imagine if a new car manufacturer announced tomorrow that all new cars could forego wheels in favor of hovering? I’d laugh. But what if in 5 years you couldn’t find a tire shop open because nobody drove a car with wheels. That is exactly what has happened in the mobile industry.

Not only that, but the number of people using smartphones in the United States went from under 20 million to about 120 million in the same time frame and is projected to pass the number of people using computers this year. So not only will everyone be driving a hover car in five years, but there will be six times as many of them (I understand I am ignoring market saturation). And one more stat? From 2010 to 2012 tablets went from virtual obscurity to having a user base of over 50 million. (source)

What It Means

I don’t know what the future holds. Thing might change just as drastically or they might settle down as the market matures. Here are a couple of thoughts though:

  • Just a few years ago it wasn’t uncommon for a website to have a lifespan of 3-5 years. If a site was developed 3-5 years ago it probably isn’t serving information to users in a way that best fits their device. About a third of time spent online is done so with a mobile device (source), which means a site that isn’t optimized could be missing a third of its possible connections.
  • The work we do as designers and developers now has to look at what we can expect to work as things change instead of trying to make something that works perfect on the platform of now
  • Web creators are quickly become partners vs vendors. In the past we could get the specs and build the project. We now live in a world where the rate of change dictates that we build on fluid systems and that can adapt to a changing market.

Questions or thoughts? As I mentioned above this topic is massive and we’ve barely started to explore it. Help guide the discussion. What do you see as a business? What are your concerns with your online presence?

Tagged with Strategy