It’s time to be more upright about your marketing

You need to consider vertical screens in your responsive design websites

We see many discussions nowadays about the need for mobile enabled or Responsive Design websites; indeed, at fatBuzz we published a post earlier in the year on the topic of Responsive Design.

The discussions have gathered real momentum since April when Google announced their intention to penalise websites that were not mobile enabled.

The increasing number of people choosing mobile devices as their primary method for accessing of internet content* now makes it essential for websites to provide the best possible user experience on mobile devices.

Most websites are now developed with mobile capability, and increasing amounts are fully responsive. However, is it enough that we simply design to these standards, or are we still missing a trick when it comes to the ultimate user experience?  Should we also be paying more attention to the way that people use mobile devices, in particular how they hold their mobile devices?


Steven Hoober published an excellent post back in February 2013 outlining some research he conducted on the way people hold their smartphones.  At the time, his observations determined that 90% of users held their smartphones vertically.

Further proof of the increase in vertical screen viewing is evident in a recent survey by eMarketer which highlighted a sharp rise in vertical viewing.  They reported, whilst horizontal screen viewing (TV, desktops, laptops and other connected devices) has remained static at an average of 7.2 hours per day for the last five years, vertical screen viewing on mobile devices has risen from 0.4 hours per day in 2010 to 2.8 hours per day in 2015.  In percentage terms, that’s an increase from 5% to 29%.

Think about this too, most Apps are designed for vertical viewing; Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and I’m reliably informed, Tinder all use vertical screen orientation.

As already stated, most sites are now developed with mobile capability or as Responsive Design, but developers still tend to develop sites on horizontal screens with one eye on how they react vertically, but is this the right approach?  We should be developing them first for vertical screens that also respond effectively on horizontal screens.

Likewise, promotional graphics developed for social media engagement should pay more attention to vertical rendering.  Yes, we need to give full consideration to mobile devices, but we must also consider the way people use them, and evidence suggests it is primarily in a vertical position.


Moreover, it’s not only our website design approach that might need a rethink; vertical video, once frowned upon by the purists, is now a serious consideration for marketers.  Snapchat claims video adverts in vertical format achieve nine times more ‘views to completion’ than horizontal videos.

It is also worth noting that more than 50% of YouTube video views are now on mobile devices.

So, do not simply assume a Responsive Design website is going to achieve the best user experience; the fundamental difference between desktop or laptop and mobile is the screen orientation.  We have now reached a time when more people access the Internet via mobile than via desktop or laptop, and more than likely, they are viewing it in an upright position.

* Mobile access to the internet in the US is now 51%, compared to desktop at 42% – Source: KPBC Technology Trends 2015