In defence of Nairaland: Why the basic website layout wins

Have you ever opened Nairaland on other devices apart from a laptop/desktop, tablet and your smartphone? Have you ever opened it on a budget smartphone and seen how fast it loads? How about one of those internet-enabled feature phones that run on GPRS and EDGE? You haven’t? You should give it a try and see. Nairaland is arguably the top dog Nigerian website that is highly accessible to ANY kind of mobile phone with a browser, no matter how basic.

Nairaland Nairaland.com

While everybody got drunk on the excitement of CSS and JavaScript, piling them on to create fancy interfaces, Nairaland stripped itself of as much of that as possible and became the most accessible website on the planet, arguably.

I know some of you think that Nigeria is a smartphone country, despite the evidence to the contrary. Some weeks ago, while teaching a digital analytics class, I showed my student the statistics from MobilityArena’s readers. What kind of devices were our readers using?

It was a moment of truth for him as we plodded through the information. Over 80% of the site’s visitors came via low-end devices, including feature phones.

I am one of those who believe that Nairaland does not need to make any drastic changes to its current design. I will wager that any such changes will see the website lose users, traffic and engagement.

What Is The Best Web Traffic Strategy?

“When asked a question about strategy, co-founder of Guaranty Trust Bank PLC, Fola Adeola, replied with a very simple but profound statement: “Whatever strategy achieves the desired result is the best strategy”.

2016 was a year in which MobilityArena recorded its greatest growth ever. Guess what: it was also the year in which we had the most basic website design. Our site layout at that time was so basic that it was discussed around and actually referred to in one place as “awful”.

I am not sure what demon influenced our changing that site layout, because we have not recorded that kind of growth again (sadly, we lost our archives of old themes we have used; the devil is a liar!). Don’t worry; we are fixing the situation already.

No; I am not saying that the site layout was the only factor that influenced that growth. But think about it: we had by far our best growth during that period when our site layout was so basic that techies complained.

It is always techies who complain about stuff like that. Techies want fancy stuff, cool stuff. But millions of mobile users in Ilorin, Lokoja, Owerri, Osogbo, Sokoto and Nassarawa just want websites that load fast and without any issues on their N10,000 feature phones. All the bloated JavaScripting, Ajax and advanced CSS stuff that techies love are actually impediments to those users.

I remember Emeka Okoye mentioning how heavy MobilityArena was at some time and so was slow loading on a feature phone he tested it on. His observation was spot on – we were cutting off a huge section of mobile web users and needed to rectify that.

Follow The Big Boys

There is a reason why the world’s top mobile/digital brands are creating stripped down versions of their websites and apps. Facebook came up with Facebook Lite for a reason. Android Go. Google AMP. YouTube Go.

The list is long and keeps growing. Those brands are only investing where the growth is, where the numbers are. Those brands understand business.

As I type this, there are ongoing discussions on Nairaland by users who are looking for an alternative to Opera Mini for data compression (and cost-saving) benefits.

Back To The Basics

Content aside, in web, the best strategy for high traffic is one that makes your website accessible on the widest range of mobile devices as possible. There are still those who are convinced that Nigeria is a smartphone country. The joke is on them. Even on a global scale, half of the world is yet to get online. That is a whopping 50% of people on the planet who are not yet online whether via a mobile device or a PC.

And Nigeria falls in that second half of disadvantaged areas. Back in September 2016, I looked at smartphone penetration in Nigeria. The grounded figure that I arrived at then was around 12%, contrary to claims of 30% in some quarters.

Seun Osewa, Nairaland, and Business Angle

Knowing Seun Osewa, his penchant is to go for the numbers. That was what he did when he pivoted from MobileNigeria to Nairaland years ago. It was a smart business decision then, and keeping Nairaland accessible to the most basic of phones is another smart business decision. While some of us love to play with technology, business-minded people go for the jugular.

Yesterday, as we discussed e-commerce and allied matters in Nigeria, Saheed Adepoju threw in, “The true king of online success may be Linda Ikeji.” My response: “Linda Ikeji and Nairaland. Basic stuff. Very basic stuff.” Nairaland is 4 times bigger than Linda Ikeji in terms of website traffic.

If you haven’t checked out Nairaland’s page loading speed, try it now. We are talking about the range of 1.7 seconds. Nairaland’s page load time is goals for Google and for everyone else trying to reach the next billion web users.

Not all that glitters is gold. Not all who wander are lost.

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13 thoughts on “In defence of Nairaland: Why the basic website layout wins”

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  2. I’ve always known the design of Nairaland to be basic, but I just tested the speed now and was shocked. No wonder they have the type of traffic they do.
    At the end of the day, it seems techies are their own problem. We think because it meets our standards, it’ll appeal to non-techies, yet everyday experiences keep proving otherwise.

  3. Yea,, those days I used Nairaland or Google to test speed of internet service of internet providers. If it fails to load Google or Nairaland u can be sure d network speed is terribly slow like Glo.

  4. This article is spot on. I had wanted to point out in the past, that your site took forever to load compared to others. This explains it in layman’s terms.
    @Mister Mobility, you should check where you typed “country” the second time, in this article.

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