The Truth About Mobile Usage of Facebook Apps

I met them all: clients ignoring mobile, clients loving mobile (but don’t want to pay for it) and the rare ones: clients knowing deeply about the need to go mobile and willing to pay for the extra steps. In this blog post I will show you, why and when it’s really important for you to [...]

I met them all: clients ignoring mobile, clients loving mobile (but don’t want to pay for it) and the rare ones: clients knowing deeply about the need to go mobile and willing to pay for the extra steps. In this blog post I will show you, why and when it’s really important for you to deal with this hot-topic and how we all can dramatically increase the success of our apps on Facebook.

How to convince your client/agency

As a Facebook app-developer you may know the situation: You’re right before the deadline of your latest project, everything’s implemented as proposed. Then the client calls: “And what about mobile!?”

If this happens to you, congratulations! You’re not completely fucked. Having a customer who thinks about mobile isn’t bad at all ;). You only need to tell your project manager that he should think about this a little bit earlier.

In the more likely case when your customer hasn’t enough knowledge/willingness about going mobile, ask him/her the following:

  • On what device do you visit Facebook first a day?
  • On what device do you visit Facebook most frequently each day?
  • Are you using a smartphone with the Facebook-app installed?
  • Might your customers think about your brand, if they are on the go?
  • Are your campaigns in any form time-critical (think of real time game, turn-based)?
  • Have you looked in your Analytics-backend lately?

If you answered, at least, one of the questions above with “mobile device” or “yes”, than you really should consider “mobile” in your own Facebook strategy!

It’s that simple. “The phone is the most social thing you have.” But, of course, there’s a much more detailed explanation as well:

Why we need to think mobile (the statistics part of the post)

Hey, dude! Seriously? You’re reading this text proably on a mobile device or an device with a very low screen resolution! Skip this part of the post and jump right over to the mobile checklist. There can’t be any better argument for you than catching you directly on your mobile phone!

Before talking about the Facebook ecosystem, I want to show you the statistics of global web usage. I think, if you compare the figures, you get a very quick overview, why mobile is such an important topic.

So, without further ado – here are the figures of StatCounter, one of the most reliable sources out there:

  • Global Distribution (WWW): 86% desktop, 14% mobile
    the mobile percentage has almost doubled in 2012!
  • Austrian Distribution (WWW): 92% desktop, 8% mobile
    the mobile percentage has more than doubled in 2012!

Facebook on the other hand has currently more than 1bn monthly active users people. 600m+ of them are users, who visit the Facebook platform mobile (120m exclusively via mobile devices). That’s a huge amount of people (aka potential users for your app)!  And it doesn’t stop here: Stats are also showing that engagement is 2x higher on mobile than on desktop. (These figures were presented by Heiko Hebig, Partnership Manager CEE at Facebook, on the allfacebook devcon in late November, 2012 in Berlin).

If you now think: “yeah, but these people only use Facebook’s native apps on iOS and android“, you’re wrong! globally speaking, there are more people who use Facebook’s mobile website than iOS and android users combined – one possible explanation for this are users in emerging markets with a low overall-smartphone penetration.

So, let’s focus on the Austrian (probably valid for the whole D/A/CH) market:

  • 69% have a smartphone (almost 85% in the group of 20-29ys)
  • 64% can’t live without a mobile phone
  • 63% of mobile internet users use social networks (95% of them use Facebook)
  • 53% of users surf the mobile web on a daily basis
  • 48% complain about not mobile-optimised content
  • (source: mobile marketing association 1/2)
  • There are more mobile broadband internet contracts than stationary (source:

Global-/country-based statistics are interesting, but we wanna share the single most significant figure we found in almost each of our projects in late 2012 (mostly Facebook Connect/Canvas-apps, not specifically mobile-only apps):

Tweetable Fact: Approximately 1/3 of Facebook app users are accessing apps on mobile devices!

So, bring this into context again: Having a third of your user base using your apps mobile, this is a huge difference from the 14% mobile traffic an average website receives normally. You will realize that Facebook has become a true mobile platform long ago.


When to think about mobile (aka the mobile checklist)

It’s never too early! The later you think about mobile, the more problems arise. I hate to use buzzwords but: Think mobile first. It’s not always necessary to design a distinct template especially for mobile. Instead think more abstract about your use cases and simplify your whole app right in the concept phase:

  • What’s the one most important task/action your users should take?
  • What’s the most easy way to achieve this action? Reduce this one to the max!
  • Is it possible to reach all of your important functionalities within 1-2 clicks?
  • Is it necessary to have functionality x/y?
  • Repeat all steps above! 2 times.

If you want to do mobile first design, than always keep in mind (and don’t forget to forward these to your designer):

  • Reduce the amount of graphics for buttons and use css-based styling instead
  • Design all buttons/inputs in a way, that mobile users can click/tap them – this means: huge!
  • Try to put all important actions above the fold
  • Try to reduce the marketing eyecandy stuff to the least possible
  • Use big enough font-sizes and whitespace

Conclusion (the tl;dr part of the post)

Fellow developers – lets make this our challenge for 2013: Talk to your customers early, tell them about the stats (or this blog post ;)) and convince them. Tell them why to think about mobile. The numbers are clear: the percentage of mobile users is already huge and still rising. In the very competitive market of Facebook apps, it’s a shame to ditch a third of your customers.

So take a deep breath, forget about the past and build beautiful, mobile-ready Facebook apps. Your customers will love you and user-numbers will grow!

PS: If you think that this topic is important for you make sure to subscribe to my public updates or like our page to receive additional infos. In a follow up post, I will concentrate more on good and (maybe) bad examples. Last but not least, feel free to comment and add your feedback below. I would love to hear about your current situation and topics you’re interested/concerned most.


About Author

Johannes Nagl

Johannes is CTO here at Die Socialisten and always looking for ways to optimize his code. He thinks that the best moment to start something is always now. Follow Johannes on Twitter, Facebook or Google+!

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