Internet users are creatures of habit

Published on: Tuesday 10 December 2013

Times are changing. That is apparent from SIDN's surveys of trends in internet use, which provide a picture of current patterns of use and the changes that are taking place. The studies focus on how people use the internet: do they reach websites by Googling them, by typing URLs or by using apps, for example? SIDN recently published an update summarising the main findings of its internet use surveys.

More and more devices internet-enabled

A key factor in the development of our internet use is the increasing variety of devices capable of connecting to the net. Until recently, users almost invariably reached websites from their PCs and the main variable in site-design was the average user's screen format: 800x600 or 1024x768. Now a site needs to look good not only on PCs and laptops, but also on 'ordinary' mobiles, on smartphones and on tablets.

Phablets: the next big thing?

And it doesn't end there, because a new generation of extra-large smartphones is coming: the phablets. These latest devices are actually more like small tablets than phones. You can use them for calling, but a casual observer may be a little surprised to see you holding a rectangular slab to your ear, which is too large to hold comfortably and hides most of one side of your face. It is going to be interesting to see how the arrival of these devices influences our internet use, particularly when combined with 4G contracts.

Smartphones often used the same way as PCs

One might expect the arrival of new devices to radically change the way people use the internet. However, it turns out that usage habits remain quite similar, regardless of the choice of access device. That is apparent, for example, from the continuing dominance of the three traditional ways of reaching websites: using a search engine, typing a domain name or clicking on a bookmark.

Small differences

Nevertheless, new devices are shaping habits. Scrolling website pages are back in vogue, for example – partly because it's easy and convenient to swipe a finger or thumb over a touchscreen. Meanwhile, smartphone users are less likely to type in domain names than tablet or PC users.

Changes expected

So, when they pick up tablets, smartphones or phablets, internet users tend to behave in much the same way as when they are sitting at a PC. That picture may change, however: it often takes years for users to adapt to new technology, and website designers need time to mine the potential of the devices coming onto the market.

Updated report

Would you like to know more? SIDN has investigated trends in internet use in 2012 and 2013. The surveys have focused particularly on the relationship between the rise of new internet access devices and the demand for domain names. The latest report presents the findings of the surveys, supported by the views of six renowned internet experts on where the current trends are leading. Download the update report Trends in Internet use (dutch).

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