One weird trick to get online — designers hate it!

At the Google Progressive Web Apps afterparty last night, I had two very different conversations within five minutes of each other.

Conversation #1 went

Hey Bruce, lucky you weren’t at REDACTED conference last week. They were bad mouthing Opera! One speaker said, “Anyway, who cares about Opera Mini?”

In the time it took to drink another 5 bottles of free beer (two minutes), conversation #2 happened:

Oh Bruce, hi. We’ve just raised £100million in funding for our business in Asia, and 35% of our users are on Opera Mini.

What’s the difference? Well, for a start, one was apparently said by a European designer to a room full of European designers, in Europe. The second is the word “users”: the second conversation focussed on the fact that a technology is used by human beings, which is always, always the point.

Now, I don’t care about Opera Mini per se (I’m not its Product Manager). In the same way, I don’t care about walking sticks, wheelchairs, mobility scooters or guide dogs. But I care deeply about people who use enabling technologies — and Opera Mini is an enabling technology. It allows people on feature phones, low-powered smartphones, people in low-bandwidth areas, people with very small data plans, people who are roaming (you?) to connect to the web.

Sure, I get that Opera Mini can frustrate some designers and developers; your rounded corners, gradients and JavaScript-only APIs don’t work. But CSS isn’t content, and a progressively enhanced website will work (albeit more clunkily) with JavaScript throttled after 3 seconds. (I wrote Making websites that work well on Opera Mini if you want more information on how Mini works.)

I ran the stats today. Of more than 250 million Opera Mini users, 50% are on Android/iOS and 50% are on feature phones. The second group almost certainly have no choice in which browser to use to get a full web experience. That’s 125 million people that designer-on-stage doesn’t care about. People like Donald from Nigeria, people like Silma from Bangladesh. People.

The top territories for Opera Mini use are India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa. Because conversation #2 was about tangible stuff – millions of pounds, and numbers, let’s look at the economic growth of these nations full of interlopers to our WWW (Wealthy Western Web).

Country Population PPP Growth Rate
India 1,251,695,584 $6,300 7.3%
Indonesia 255,993,674 $11,300 4.7%
Bangladesh 168,957,745 $3,600 6.5%
Nigeria 181,562,056 $6,400 4%
South Africa 53,675,563 $13,400 1.4%

(PPP= Gross Domestic Product per Capita, figures from CIA World Fact Book)

Sure, those PPP numbers might be low compared with the home countries of designer-on-a-stage and audience, but how do the growth rates compare? These are dynamic, emerging markets. Who cared about China ten years ago?

If you don’t care about Opera Mini users in these areas, you can bet your competitors soon will.

6 Responses to “ One weird trick to get online — designers hate it! ”

Comment by Michael "Spell" Spellacy

Good read! I have always found Opera Mini to be a good gauge for how well built a site is.

Comment by Anonymouse

“India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.”

Where most spam comes from and should be blocked on your firewall.

Also, for ecommerce sites, if they’re using Opera Mini to make purchases on your site, they deserved to be blocked.

And as a general overview, Opera Mini fails on so many browser features you see on that it would do you good to block this browser as a priority.

Comment by Radu

I was there at REDACTED (sic) and heard that comment about not caring about Opera Mini first hand. It was sarcastic. Tongue-in-cheek. Not true to reality.
Seems like the person who mentioned it to you had taken the comment literally.

Rest assured, Bruce. You’ve thoroughly drilled it into our (European designers living in Europe enjoying Europe-standards of living and especially Europe-standard wages) skulls that, yes, Opera Mini matters.

And d’you know what? We, designers and devs, haven’t actually heard anything from Opera Mini’s Product Manager. But we have heard stuff about it from you. So … I’m just saying …

Comment by Bruce

Thanks Radu. I didn’t hear the alleged comment, so obviously wasn’t able to judge the tongue-in-cheekness of the it. That’s why I redacted the name of the conference. But I’ve heard similar comments made so regularly without any irony that I reflexively leap to Opera Mini’s defence.

R/e not hearing from the Opera Mini PM, well – they’re busy actually managing the product! I’m the paid rottweiler at Opera.

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