Frances BerrimanFrances Berriman

If I was given the job of Father Christmas with all my human limitations, apparently it would take me something like 6 months at non-stop full speed to deliver gifts to every kid on the planet. The real Father Christmas has the luxury of magic when it comes to delivering millions of gifts in just one night, but the only magical platform at my disposal is the world wide web, so I propose switching to digital gift cards and saving the reindeer feed.

300 million people are set to come online for the very first time in 2020, and a majority of those will be doing so via mobile phones (smart- and feature-phones). If we want those new users to have a great time online, spending those gift cards, we need to start thinking about their needs and limitations.

Suit up

We might not be hopping on the sleigh for these deliveries, but let’s suit up for the journey and get the tools we need to start testing and checking how our online gift-receivers will be enjoying their online shopping experience.

Of course, the variety of phones and OSs out there is huge and varied, but we have a few options out there to get a sense for the median. Here’s a few suggestions on where to start:

  • Never has there been a better time to advocate at your workplace for a device testing suite or lab.
  • You can also just pick up a low-end phone for a few bucks and spend some real time using it and getting a sense for how it feels to live with it every day. May I suggest the Nokia 2 or the Moto E6 – both very representative devices of the sort our new visitors will be on.
  • You’ve also got at your disposal, where you can emulate various phones and see your sites rendered in real-time to get a sense of what an experience may look like for your users.
  • You’ll also want to set yourself some goals. A performance budget, for example, is a good way to know if the code you’re shipping hits the mark in a more programmatic way.

Gift wrap

Many of us began our internet lives on desktop machines, and thanks to Moore’s law, these machines have been getting ever more powerful every year with more CPUs and memory at our disposal. The mobile phone landscape somewhat resets us on what hardware capacity is available on the client-side of our code, so it’s time to lighten the load.

What we see in the landscape of phones today is a huge spread of capabilities and CPU speeds, storage capacity and memory. And the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, so we have a huge task to deal with in meeting the needs of such a varied audience.

As far as possible, we should try to:

  • Keep processing off the client – do anything you can server-side. Consider a server-side render (hold the