Back in 2016, we saw an increasing number of people using tablets and mobile devices instead of desktop computers to browse the internet. On average, the combined number of mobile and tablet users finally surpassed the number of desktop users globally and the upwards trend is still continuing.

05-02-201413-44-33This fact means that web developers often have to create two or three versions of a website to make sure people on screens of all sizes have a good user experience and are therefore more likely to convert. Website owners may also use a responsive web design or create a business app to offer a good user experience on all devices.

Since April 2015, having a website that’s not mobile friendly now  affects Google’s search engine rankings for mobile searches. Google has also recently launched mobile first indexing which exclusively looks at the website experience for mobile devices.

Visitors using a smartphone to browse a website that’s not mobile friendly will on average:

  • spend less time browsing the site (smartphone users are quick to give up on a bad website)
  • be less likely to perform any desirable actions (such as making a purchase or calling a phone number)
  • be more likely to return back to the search engine results (to visit another website)

It’s really important to look closely at how your mobile and tablet users interact with your website, so you can find out if there are any significant concerns which need to be addressed.  Luckily, Google Analytics has the ability to separate out desktop, mobile and tablet traffic so you can look into important statistics once analytics tracking is correctly setup.

Comparing Desktop Vs Mobile Vs Tablet Traffic

In Google Analytics you can see an overview of the different device categories by visiting the “Reporting” tab and then:  Audience > Mobile > Overview

On the mobile overview report you’ll see a wealth of data, especially if goal tracking or ecommerce tracking is implemented. Ensure that you have a large date range set in the top right corner to make the results statistically significant. The more historic data you select, the more accurate the results will be.

The quickest way to see useful statistics is to click on the little pie chart icon on the right hand side.  Here you can see what share of traffic the different devices get, or their contribution to the total amount of goals achieved or revenue generated:

Another great tool is the comparison tool which shows you how a metric is performing compared to the site average and usually highlights the best and worst cases. The better than average results are shown in green and the worse than average results are shown in red (see image below).  Make sure you choose an insightful metric where all the traffic is on a level playing field, such as the ecommerce conversion rate or the average session duration:

Rather than simply measuring the volume of users performing a desirable action on your website, it is more useful to measure the percentage of users who perform that action. This allows you to say confidently that “For every 100 mobile users we have just over 2 sales, but for every 100 desktop or laptop users, we have nearly have double!” as shown in the example above. For most websites, the number of visitors on different devices is not as important as how well visitors on different devices convert.

One other report to look at is the mobile device report within Google Analytics which can be found in the same section: Audience > Mobile > Device
You can break down the reports into individual devices, brands or even different screen resolutions:

This same comparison report option can be used for many useful reports within Google Analytics and is well worth having a play around with.

Creating Custom Device Reports

If you are feeling particularly adventurous then you can segment mobile traffic further using a custom report from the “Customisation” (or “Customization”) tab at the top of Analytics.  The example below would show just the organic (SEO) traffic for mobile users who land on the homepage [shortcut link to custom report]:

Custom reports can be used to segment data in many useful ways on important reports such as landing page, campaign or search query reports.

It’s often important to segment out desktop, mobile and tablet devices as the look, feel and way people interact with the websites on each device is very different.

The three device types are also used in different places at different times. For example, a mobile phone user could be hastily viewing a website whilst on public transport, but a tablet user may be casually browsing a website whilst simultaneously watching television at home.

Improving Mobile and Tablet Performance

Improving mobile and tablet performance can boost the number of overall conversions by ensuring that visitors either stay on the website longer, or that they find it easier to perform a desired action such as a call, signup or sale.

Certain areas on a website may not function properly on mobile or tablet devices due to many reasons such as:

  • Widgets not being supported on a mobile device (for example Flash video players do not work on iPhones)
  • Un-clickable popups stopping a website being used on a small screen (obtrusive mobile interstitials)
  • Tiny text links or button images which cannot be selected easily on a touch screen (bad mobile user experience)
  • Elements of the website overlapping each other (hidden or un-clickable content)

Since most websites have over 50% combined mobile and tablet traffic, it’s vitally important to get mobile right by identifying where improvements could be made. To make the best improvements, ensure that you compare metrics such as conversion rate for different devices before and after the change, ideally using split testing software such as Google Optimize, Visual Website Optimiser or Optimizely:

One great test is to simply pick up different smartphones or tablets and give your website a thorough test on each device. You’d be surprised how many website owners have never tried this simple method out!

An even better test is to watch a real person try to perform a task on your website without giving them any help. You can specify the task you’d like them to complete, then note down where they got stuck and ask them to talk you through their thoughts on the process so you can identify any issues.

26 responses to “Google Analytics: Desktop vs. Mobile vs. Tablet Metrics”

  1. Sally Mayor says:

    Thanks for the great post, I was looking for this information earlier in the week and couldn’t find it – then your email dropped into my Inbox!
    Thanks again.

  2. Many Thanks Sally,
    Please let us know if there is any other information you’d like the Hallam team to cover in the near future!

  3. Rahul says:

    I was reading an article on ‘The Economist’ that says “one source shows that IE is still in front in terms of numbers of visitors to websites. But for e-commerce, share of traffic matters more. By this measure Chrome now dominates much of the planet”.

    My question is how can IE even though having number of visitors to websites more can have lesser web traffic than chrome? May be you could explain.

  4. Hi Rahul,

    Internet Explorer is a very popular browser still in certain countries such as China and India. As the population is over 2.5 billion in these two countries alone this really bumps up the IE statistics I’d imagine! We tend to see a lot of Indian and Chinese traffic to our client’s websites even though they might not be doing business outside the UK.

    Different statistics from different sources paint quite different statistics, see Wikipedia’s page for example on the topic:

    I would just concentrate on what’s important to your target country/countries instead of average global statistics. Typically websites should perform well in IE8 onwards as well as the latest several versions of Firefox, Chrome and Opera.

    • Rahul says:


      Thanks for replying. However, I just wanted to know how the two terms ‘No. of visitors to websites’ and ‘web traffic’ are unrelated as what this article might be implying. For me I think both are same. I guess if the number of visitors to websites are more through IE, naturally the web traffic through it will be more too. However, the article says the opposite. It says, as per number of visitors IE is in front but in terms of web traffic it is behind chrome. Can you explain this?

  5. Hi Rahul,
    I see what you mean, when it comes to reporting you can count the number of unique visitors or the number of individual visits (also known as web traffic or the number of sessions).
    One person could visit a website say three times during a month, the statistics will say there has been one unique visitor but three visits in total, creating the difference.

  6. Kelly says:

    Is the Surface in the desktop or mobile category?

  7. Hi Kelly,
    The Surface is classed as a tablet actually, search for the “Mobile Device Model” = “Windows RT Tablet” or “Mobile Device Info” = “Microsoft Windows RT Tablet”

  8. Josh Coady says:

    What about a Surface running full Windows, not Windows RT?

  9. Hi Josh,
    The “Mobile Device Model” should still be “Windows RT Tablet”. The operating system is in a another field.

  10. Jonathan, here is a source of stats I wanted to share with you: from a little project I have been working on. Hope it is helpful for you.

  11. Jonathan Ellins Jonathan Ellins says:

    Thanks Trent, interesting to see the ever-increasing use of mobile online.

  12. viraj patil says:

    The day by day the mobiles will replace the desktops and tablets.Thanks for sharing this informative blog.

  13. This is the information that i m looking earlier. Every day the technology of mobiles is upgraded and so as they were replacing tablets and desktop. Thank you for sharing this kind of valuable information with your sites visitors.

  14. Yep too many people forgot (or don’t think about) that buttons on mobile have to be big enough to get clicked 😉 It can sound something obvious but at the end of the day is an important part of the experience on mobile, so good to see it in your list 😉

  15. Jonathan Ellins Jonathan Ellins says:

    Thanks Alessandro, the mobile experience is very poor on many websites and there’s now over 40% mobile users (and rising) for many ecommerce websites. The best test is to see if a child, someone with big hands and someone who has bad eyesight can all use the mobile version of a website! 🙂

  16. hi Jonathan,
    you blog post is very informative and get knowledge about google analytics i am also working on analytics and you are a genius thanks for share it

  17. John Williams says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    thank you for this analytics post, it’s insightful. 🙂

    I have a query though related to using the comparison chart.
    The thing that is confusing, you mention to pay attention to the red bars as they show that they are worse than site average. However if you see the differences following the second screenshot chart for device > session and bounce rate the green bars with this chart show a negative percentage and the red are in a positive. Would that mean it’s falling below site average as it display a negative metric even though it is a green color?

    Thank you for this post.


  18. Jonathan Ellins Jonathan Ellins says:

    Hi John,
    Many thanks for your comment.
    The bounce rate is the percentage of people who do not visit a second page after landing on the website. A bounce rate of 20% (2 out of 10 people) would be twice as good as a bounce rate of 40% (4 out of 10 people). Therefore bounce rate is one of the few metrics where it’s better to have a lower number than a higher one, hence the red bars being placed on the higher percentages than average for different devices.
    Best Regards,

  19. Lokesh Kumar says:

    hello Jonathan ,
    Thanks for sharing this informative information about google analytic .. i definitely follow your works.

  20. Vivek says:

    Excellent tips for getting the mobile info. Thank you!

  21. Jonathan Ellins Jonathan Ellins says:

    Hi Pranayreddythoda, you should try using segments to separate out desktops and laptops. There’s no clear-cut way in Google Analytics to separate laptops users but you can try using screen resolution. If you can control the website then you can use custom dimensions and detect whether a computer has less than 100% battery power or not, but this is complex to code and only works retrospectively.

  22. Thanks for sharing this informative article about Google analytics.It will be really helpful .Nicely You have explained it in a detailed manner.Thanks.

  23. Nicky says:


    My blog is brand new and when my friends visit my page on their mobile devices it does not show up on my google analytics profile, I only receive information from laptops. My blog is on the tumblr platform. Does anyone know how to fix this issue?

    • Jonathan Ellins Jonathan Ellins says:

      Hi Nicky, if someone is using the mobile app to access Tumblr then you cannot see any analytical data for these users, unfortunately.

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