The multi-screen world (and what it means for you)

photo credit: adactio via photopin cc

We’re multi-screeners.  Or at least North Americans are, according to a Google study from earlier this year, and I don’t think we in England are far off.

The study looked at how media is used in daily life, and how consumers use multiple screens to accomplish their tasks (the study report is embedded at the bottom of this post).  These are the things that stood out for me:

“The device we choose to use is often driven by our context: where we are, what we want to accomplish and the amount of time we have or need.”

Thoughts: notice this isn’t just about location, but also about time available, attitude and state of mind.  How often have you reached for your phone while sitting on the sofa – not because it was easier to use than an iPad or laptop, but just because it happened to be there & meant you didn’t have to get up?

Learning Point: context does drive device choice, but be careful of making assumptions as to what your ‘mobile users’ are doing and what content they want from your website.  They’re not always walking down a street or in a car trying to find your office!

“Smartphones are the backbone of our daily media interactions.   They have the highest number of user interactions per day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.”


Learning point: You need to be on mobile.  Your mobile website needs to be easy to use.  “Smartphones serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens” – so your mobile website needs to present the right information in a tidy, quick, professional manner – convincing people sufficiently to continue their interaction with your business at a later time/date.

“But… they also have the lowest average time spent per interaction.”


Learning point:  Your mobile website needs to get the right information to people, fast.  Navigation is incredibly important, content even more so.  If the first thing people see of every page is a big ugly menu, it’s not great.  Give them content right away, along with an easy to access menu that displays fully when clicked.  Speed is obviously also very important here.

“Portable screens allow us to move easily from one device to another to achieve a task.  Search is the most common bridge between devices in this sequential usage.”

“There are two main modes of multi-screening:

  • sequential screening – where we move between devices.
  • Simultaneous screening – where we use multiple devices at the same time”

Learning point: Content, structure and search need to be consistent across devices.  People follow things up on a smartphone after looking initially on a laptop or PC.  Making the same content available on all devices is crucial to prevent user frustration.  In addition, presenting information in a consistent site structure/with a consistent navigation (albeit displayed differently on mobile) is important to ensure users can take the same path to find information, regardless of device.

The Report

On a tangent…

As I was looking into this, I couldn’t help thinking:

  • How image based / ‘easy-read’ this report is.  Yes, it’s nice to consume. But I worry about this trend slightly.  Are we becoming ever more used to being spoon-fed high level information & losing the inclination to dig deeper?
  • How much time we spend in front of a screen.  The report stated ‘On average we spend 4.4 hours of our leisure time in front of screens each day.’  Note that relates to leisure time.  To my mind, that’s hugely unhealthy.  By the time I’ve finished work, the desire to stare at a screen is usually pretty non-existent!  Surely spending this amount of our free time in front of a screen inhibits health, relationships, productivity, creativity … need I go on?!

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