Web studio inertness as key market indicator
I 29 January 2013

Web studio inertness as key market indicator

Last Autumn, a research into how much demand there is on creation of mobile Internet-ready website was done by NetCat, one of Russia's leading CMS developers, and CMS Magazine. As part of the study, around 500 web studios fr om Moscow, St. Petersburg and the country's provincial cities were surveyed.

The results were far fr om inspiring. Although the media and industry conferences are using the term 'mobile Internet' more and more, neither the studios nor their clients are concerned about mobile Internet support. Only 15%, or every sixth respondent, feel there is a demand for services of that sort, and the picture is quite the same in Russia's 'two capitals' and in smaller cities.

Answers to other questions varied as well: when should adaptive layout be used and when creation of a mobile version of the site is preferable? Are templates enough or should every commission be considered individually, etc. Survey authors' attempt to group respondents according to simple criteria, such as size of the city they come from, have failed, as answers differed greatly everywhere. What does really drive players at this market? Is it objective principles of economy or is it rather their own psychology?

TheRunet's Dmitry Frolov talked with Dmitry Vasilyev, CEO at NetCat, a company that offers a content management system of the same name.

The survey showed that opinions differ, and that is only natural. But the variation between answers given by people living in the same city, like Moscow, or major regional centres, is huge. Why is that?

The situation is changing rapidly, so various studios may be in various stages of development. See for yourself: the subject of adaptive sites only became prominent about a year ago, when people started discussing it, writing books about it, translating articles on the matter, etc. And so, I asked those who shout about it: "show me the websites for which you made the adaptation, I'm dying to see them!" Bu they say they don't have any adaptive sites ready, that works are underway on all the sites. So, there are actually very few adaptive sites in Russia, and that is exactly what the survey showed.

Web studio representatives wh ere also asked about how much development costs increased considering mobile adaptation, and their answers differed greatly, too, ranging fr om 'a bit' to '50%'. Why? Were they being sly, or incompetent, or were they, perhaps, trying to promote themselves and their pricing policies, or maybe they just wish it were so?

They weren't promoting themselves, no. You can see from survey results that people are answering the questions honestly. It's just that the respondents don't always have the data they may need for a detailed answer, with them. Like in shipbuilding: the new ships are still on the stocks, and you don't yet have the stats concerning the ships that are ready. Thus they give answers that are only based on their own expert opinion.

But then, can we say that an expert opinion like that is rather how they perceive, how they feel the situation in the market, and that feeling indicates what the future will be better that any research that gives precise figures and quantities?

That's a complicated question. Perhaps it does indicate that, but we clearly see that our respondents' forecasts of the future differ from one another, and the difference is quite big. That shows that the market is not yet formed. People answering the questions often don't understand what they are about, they just lack practical experience. And that indicates the state in which the market is. There's only a handful of people with a really good experience in development of mobile sites, and even fewer people are experienced in adaptive design. One good thing about this research is that it showed how very few people like that there are in Russia.

Here's a good example of how much the respondents' answers about the necessity of a mobile version differ: we can see in the results of your study, that the answers are split fifty-fifty. What is the answer, in those cases?

This variety of opinions is the answer. We didn't do an in-depth analysis, but there must be studios working in the same cities making about the same websites but, their views on the matter are quite antipodal. It greatly depends on the studio's in question professional level, and whether or not it is ready to work on mobile sites or other things that have something to do with analytics.

Because nowadays, the leading companies don't just design the site, they also measure the site's efficiency, they may change some parts together with the client, they know of the client's objectives and take them into account them in the business logic that the site is based on. But when a studio just makes websites the way it has done for the past five years, then it may never occur to their client to ask for a mobile version or think how long it will take to cover the expenses, etc. Studios who are into that stuff are likely to offer making a mobile version to their client (not every client, though). And if they offer services like that in the regions, wh ere there are fewer smartphones in use; or to a client who works in an industry wh ere mobile Internet is not broadly ued, then the client will decline the offer. An after that happens, the guys at the studio will think 'there's no demand' for mobile sites.

It may happen that there's no demand as long as there's no offer.

Yes. And if the web studios remain inert, there will be no demand, too.  

So the level of the studios' inertness is a market indicator?

Yes. I believe this inertness is the main indicator.

Can mobile Internet drive the market towards more civilized practices? TNS Russia recently launched their mobile Internet measuring project, Yandex designed its own browser, adapting it to 'slow Internet'. Can this technological novelty make the studios wake up and move forward?

It is not happening yet. A bit more than a year ago there were two trends in site construction: mobilisation and socialisation. That is to say, more and more widgets are appearing on the sites as they become increasingly integrated with social networks; and more and more sites have mobile support. So everything's fine, and you can speak at conferences, as I did, at Site-2011, for instance. But there was another presentation after me, and that other speaker came with some stats: he took a hundred leading sites, according to one rating, and showed the audience that only a few of them had a mobile version. And then he said, rather tactfully: "The previous speaker was right when speaking about trends, it was very interesting indeed, but the picture we see so far is quite different.

More than year has passed, and the picture has not changed. According to our study, a web studio designs about 25 sites a year, and 4 of them are adapted to mobile Internet in this way or that. Bu I suspect that most of those sites are used simply as business cards. I can see very few fully-fledged corporate sites that have mobile versions. Services, news sites, timetables and events sites all have mobile versions, of course, they must have them today, as they get about 30% of all visits via mobile gadgets. But corporate sites don't need it, so they think. A web store may have a mobile version, if its lucky, but few have been lucky so far.

But this is the situation today. LTE is coming, and mobile Internet is advancing in the regions. What will happen next, when they are here to stay? Will it make the necessity of a mobile version more obvious?

Of course, sooner or later all sites will have to have a mobile version or be adapted to mobile Internet. But I'm still skeptical about terms of this, as designers are very inert, they are keeping their heads down, and their clients are silent. And until they see that about 20% of visits to their site are from mobile gadgets, and that 15% at least are from smartphones; in other words, until they understand that they are losing money because they don't have a mobile version, they won't think of having one.

Obviously, conversion rates are higher on mobile gadgets than on usual computers: when we are sitting in the office, we can take our time choosing, but when we visit a site via our mobile, it is to see an address or just push the 'order' button. So, when clients understand that they need a mobile version, they will look for companies who can help them, and not vice versa. But I don't think the situation will change drastically in the coming year, and there will be no booming growth yet in the nearest future.