Designing content for the reality of multi-screen access: smartphone, tablet, PC, TV


The relatively recent rise of smartphones and tablets has changed how we use tech and how we consume news. However, while they have eroded usage of the long established interfaces of PCs, laptops, and TVs, they certainly haven’t supplanted them.

This has lead us to the dawning of new phase in which a large proportion of people in the developed world consume content and use applications across four different primary screens: smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs, and TV (or more generally the primary large screen in the household).

Google is clearly interested in understanding how people use these four screens on their own and together, and has sponsored an interesting study The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior, also embedded below.

The most interesting insight from the study is that “90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal”, including 67% in shopping online and 46% in managing finances.

In many cases the screens are accessed sequentially.

We found that nine out of ten people use multiple screens sequentially and that smartphones are by far the most common starting point for sequential activity. So completing a task like booking a flight online or managing personal finances doesn’t just happen in one sitting on one device. In fact, 98% of sequential screeners move between devices in the same day to complete a task.

It has become increasingly evident that people use other screens while watching TV. This study says that 77% of the times people watch TV, it is with another device.

This reality of consistent multi-screen access to content, services, and applications must be at the center of design, and indeed at the center of how businesses are operated. Single-screen design is no longer sufficient.