Sales of laptop computers, especially the ultra-portables from Asus, Dell, HP and several other companies, are super hot these days and that has repercussions for Web writers and designers alike.
According to International Data Group, the sales of portable notebooks in the US–driven by several new companies in that segment of the business-outsold desktop computers for the first time in the history of computers in the third quarter of this year.
IDG says notebook computers accounted for 55 percent of computers sold in the US. That’s overall (consumers and small-medium-large companies).
Here’s what’s really interesting: In the consumer market, 75 percent of computers consumer purchased were portables. The laptop end of the business has been growing faster than many market research firms predicted at the beginning of the year and it appears to be accelerating.
The trend toward laptops signals a change is in the air for Web writers and designers, and I’ll explain why that is, if you just bear with me for another moment.
The outlook for laptops is rosy in part because of the high interest in mini- or ultra-portables. They’re inexpensive (under $500) so many customers are buying them to use as a second laptop. They’ve become a kind of “electronic inbox” users can take to places like Starbucks and Mickey D’s to download and send short emails and view quick pops of Web info, often more for play than for work.
The typical ultra-mobile has a screen of only 7 to 9 inches and weighs a couple of pounds. The screens are not the glossy kind you see on a Dell, HP or other name-brand laptops, at least not yet. Most of them run some variation of Linux, which means more Firefox and less Internet Explorer too.
Okay, so why am I yammering about all of this?
Your copy and designs will need to fit into ever-smaller real estate on screen. That means few graphics, clean and streamlined designs. More icons, more buttons. Designing for touch-screen interfaces when they become available, which is very soon.
If you’re a writer, you’ll be writing even shorter sentences and paragraphs, more lists and tricks of the scannable trade. In particular, readers hate to scroll, so that also means even shorter stories.
Mobile device users tend to use two hands when they are producing content and one hand when they are consuming content, points out Ben Bederson co-founder of Zumobi, a developer of mobile widget apps. The smaller keyboards on regular and ultra-portables are more for content consumption and less for content production. Therefore, you’ll have to figure on the increasing use of touch-screens and icons and buttons similar to those on the Apple iPhone.
Site visitors will come and go more often
The point is that if portable keep flying out the door as fast as everyone believes, you won’t be writing or designing Web pages solely for desktops or even smart phones. You’ll be thinking mostly in terms of screens that are 7 to 9 inches on the diagonal. No doubt, you’ll still be writing for and designing pages not only different screen sizes (everything from iPhones to 17-inch big-screen laptops), and for different platforms (everything from mobile to cloud computing) and browsers (Firefox, IE and maybe Google’s Chrome). Here’s just one more consideration.
The upshot of all this, to paraphrase Bederson, visitors to your site won’t stick around as long as they used to because they’ll be peering at smaller screens rather than the bigger, badder and bolder LCDs that we all thought we’d be looking at in the future. Now, visitors won’t be as willing or as compelled to stick around like they used to. Instead, visitors will leave quickly and come back more often. Instead of “sticky,” your Web pages will be “bouncy,” Bederson says.