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Optimizing the browser long tail across platforms, devices, and countries



30-second summary:

  • If a company or brand wants to go global, it must understand the intricacies of where and how consumers browse, realizing that true optimization must consider content consumption trends and regional device or browser differences.
  • Better user experiences and higher engagement levels depend on it.
  • There is no such thing as “mobile vs. desktop” when optimizing visuals for a website.
  • Cloudinary’s VP of Marketing discusses how to optimize at a global scale. 

Just as diverse as the devices and browsers on which people globally surf the web, the internet is a complex digital world. If a company or brand wants to go global, it must understand the intricacies of where and how consumers browse, realizing that true optimization must consider content consumption trends, and regional device or browser differences. Better user experiences and higher engagement levels depend on it. More on how optimizing the browser long tail can help your business.

Visual storytelling is everything, but not simple

Marketers rely heavily on visuals as part of their strategy to make a meaningful impact and ensure a good first impression. Whether to sell an apparel product or market a professional service, a photo or video will more quickly communicate value than a written description. Delivering compelling visuals across a website is critical to achieving the desired call to action for a site visitor, but it’s often technical details that interfere with a brand’s visual storytelling efforts.

There is no such thing as “mobile vs. desktop” when optimizing visuals for a website. While once a helpful reminder for developing responsive and user-friendly sites, this simplistic, either-or mentality doesn’t account for every possible touchpoint.

Consider this scenario: first thing in the morning, a man checks his WhatsApp messages on his phone to see that a friend shared a Facebook link for a fitness watch. He then starts looking more into it on his device before getting out of bed. Once he’s logged on to his desktop during work hours, he does additional research, digging into product details and features. Later, he pulls up the website on his tablet to show the watch to his girlfriend as a birthday hint, referencing customer testimonial videos to drive his point home. Before calling it a day, he’s back on his phone in WhatsApp or via text message, sharing with his friend that he’s almost certain the watch will soon be his.

There are a variety of important aspects to consider when creating a visual story online, as shown in this example: the default browser on the man’s device, the microbrowser through which he communicates with friends, the previews associated with unfurled social media links; and finally, the different devices he interacts with, each having different requirements for size, and aspect ratios. Nothing is more frustrating than investing significant time and resources to create beautiful visuals for a campaign only to discover that audiences aren’t seeing them how they were intended.

The browser long tail and other browser dynamics shouldn’t compromise your visuals

Despite the dominant players in the global browser market, there still exists a browser long tail – a list of different browser versions used by consumers – with significant regional differences. Consumers expect a consistent experience, wherever they engage with brands, but a big reason for consistency issues is a developer’s limited view of just how lengthy that worldwide list of relevant browser types really is.

In this year’s State of the Visual Media Report, Cloudinary found that while Chrome and Safari continue to lead the worldwide browser market (63.91% and 18.2%, respectively), lesser-known variants are still influential in many parts of the world. In analyzing more than 200 billion monthly transactions across 700 customers, research found, for example, that Nokia devices are still popular in Northern Europe, and in certain Asian markets, Nintendo DS systems see a lot of traffic. Surprisingly, there’s even image traffic coming from legacy office software like Lotus Notes. Understanding these nuances of the browser long tail in different geographies will give developers a leg up as they work to ensure every image or video format used is supported by a viewer’s browser of choice.

Adopting visual content and lite mode to improve engagement durations

In April 2020, 18% of global Android users enabled the “save-data,” or lite mode, function, which enables faster browsing by decreasing the amount of mobile data used. In this mode, Google’s servers may consider web pages fully loaded without processing large-format and data-rich visual content. Knowing this, developers can adopt visual content to ensure the experience will be optimal without losing site performance. According to Cloudinary data, web developers that work to optimize the lite mode experience benefit from longer engagement and see up to a 10% uptick in session engagement. Given the strong correlation between adapted content and longer engagement, it’s in a developer’s best interest to ensure visuals are adapted for this device mode and its users.

Embracing intelligent asset optimization for a seamless user experience

Making sure a website’s images and videos are responsive is more than just adjusting for the right layout. More than ever, it’s now about making sure that content is making the greatest use of landscape and portrait device orientations. A responsive site adapts its layout to the viewing environment, resizing and moving elements dynamically based on the properties of the browser or device the site is displayed on.

AI can automatically detect web visitors’ visual requirements and their browsers, automatically delivering each image and video in the most efficient format, quality, and resolution. AI can also detect the subject in an image that is most likely to capture a viewer’s attention to help automate the resizing and cropping of visual content.

The browser long tail shouldn’t degrade a user’s experience of visuals on a website. Dev teams should prepare for the browser longtail as they seek to understand and reach their target audience. Only when they wrap their arms around the vast universe of browser dynamics can they create a visual online storytelling experience that is consistent and meaningful, worldwide.

Sanjay Sarathy is VP Marketing at Cloudinary.



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