Desktop still preferred for important web tasks

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Desktop still preferred for important web tasks

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While mobile internet usage has grown, desktop and larger devices are still preferred for important tasks on the web according to research by the Nielsen Norman Group (Large Devices Preferred for Important Tasks).

Despite substantial improvements in mobile UX over the past decade, people still tend to do their most important online activities on larger screens.

Since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, we increasingly use our phones to do a wide variety of tasks.

In fact, according to Pew Internet, in 2019 17% of Americans depended on their mobile phone as their only way to access the internet at home. Those numbers are much higher in other parts of the world such as India or China.

In the UK, the latest usage stats show 47% for Desktop, 42% Mobile and 11% for Tablet.

Market share UK Desktop vs Mobile vs Tablet

Mobile vs Desktop vs Tablet UK
Mobile vs Desktop vs Tablet UK July 2019


Methodology of the research

Nielsen Norman Group asked 50 American respondents in a diary study to tell us what they did online in their daily lives. We obtained 492 different records of online activities. Each record included the following information from the respondent:

  • A description of the activity
  • If (and how) the activity influenced the respondent’s thoughts, opinions, or actions
  • Whether the activity was for work, personal life, or school
  • Which device(s) was used
  • What the respondent’s motivation was for performing the activity
  • A rating of how important the activity was to the respondent, on a 1–5 scale, 5 being the most important
  • How the respondent felt about the activity
  • How long it took
  • Whether the activity was successful
  • How easy the activity was for the respondent, on a 1–5 scale, 5 being very easy

Larger Devices Are Used for Important Tasks

They found that the activities carried out on large-screen devices like desktop computers and laptops were considered more important than those performed on smartphones.

Average ease rating by device
This bar chart shows the average ease rating for activities performed on a computer/laptop (red) and, respectively, on a mobile device (grey). Activity ease was rated on a scale from 1 (very difficult) to 5 (very easy). Computer activities had an average ease rating of 3.96 out of 5, with a 95% margin of error of 0.22. Mobile activities had an average ease rating of 4.52 out of 5, with a 95% margin of error of 0.17. This difference is statistically significant by a paired t-test.

This data suggests that people tend to do important tasks on the bigger screen, but it doesn’t tell us why.

It could be that many of the important tasks are not supported on mobile devices. Or, more likely, it could be that the overall experience of doing these tasks on mobile is perceived as too bad, so people prefer doing these important tasks on bigger devices.

In cases where the stakes are high and mistakes could have severe consequences (e.g., doing your taxes), people may feel safer and less error-prone on larger screens.

See more analysis in the original article here:

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