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Results from the Third Mac DevCenter Survey

by Derrick Story

The tallies for the third Mac DevCenter reader poll are in, and they extend many of the themes you established in 2003 and 2004. In this recap, I'll provide you with some detail on how this year's results fit in with those past surveys.

As always, the turnout was outstanding. More than 1,370 respondents managed to complete the online form. Beyond that, a third of you included comments to help us better understand what this community likes, and dislikes, about Mac DevCenter.

To put things in context, site traffic is up about 35 percent from last year, which has pushed this site up among the majors in the Mac community. Increased traffic has brought some diversification to this site's audience. The core audience of developers and programmers turned out in big numbers for this survey, lobbying for their interests. They were joined by power users and recent converts who seem less passionate about the specific types of articles we publish, but certainly are not less committed to the platform in general. One sentiment that spans our entire audience is enthusiasm for the platform itself. And I share that enthusiasm.

Survey Data Highlights

I added a number of questions to this year's poll, mostly about the site itself. I'll get to those in a minute. First, I want to review the data that's been a part of all three surveys, so you can get a feel for the trends.

  • One third of the audience visits the site daily. Another 50 percent visits once a week or more. These numbers are consistent with the results from 2003-4

  • The European audience for Mac DevCenter has slipped by 3 percentage points from last year. Europe is now 22 percent (compared to 25 percent in 2004), but still up from 20 percent in 2003. Canadians increased by a percentage point to six. U.S. residents still comprise close to two-thirds of site visits.

  • Macs in the workplace remain about the same as last year. Half of you said that Macs make up less than 25 percent of your workstations. 16 percent said that Macs are the only computers at work. But there was modest growth in the middle percentages, indicating that more Macs are being integrated in the business environment, but quietly.

  • There was a shift in the home vs. work numbers. Sixty-eight percent of you said that you use Macs at home and at work, down from 74 percent last year. This correlated with 30 percent of you saying that you use Macs at home only, up from 25 percent last year. Are more people working at home? Only one percent said they use Macs at work only.

  • The PowerBook is still this audience's computer of choice--42 percent of you are toting metal (down from 45 percent last year). The desktop G4 settled in at 13 percent, but the G5 numbers are on the rise (16 percent, up from 10 percent last year). iBooks remained steady at 11 percent. The Mac mini is only used by 4 percent of this audience.

  • When it comes to digital devices, compact digital cameras still rule the roost, with 73 percent of you saying you use them regularly (up from 71 percent last year). The iPod had a strong showing at 61 percent (respondents could mark all devices that apply), which was down from 63 percent last year. But the iPod mini (16 percent) and shuffle (18 percent) surely had something to do with that. Palm PDAs dropped from 34 percent to 27 percent, DV camcorders increased 3 percentage points to 30, and the iSight rose 2 percent to 27.

  • Over 88 percent of this audience has upgraded to Tiger--not so surprising. But 57 percent of you have purchased iLife 05 and 45 percent maintain .Mac accounts--about the same as in 2004. Over 40 percent of Mac DevCenter readers have moved up to the Pro version of QuickTime, which is a 10 percent increase over last year. And iWork makes a strong showing at 41 percent, up substantially from Keynote's 23 percent last year.

New Questions Specific to Mac DevCenter

As you probably know, we've done a little housekeeping on the Mac DevCenter homepage. Weblogs are now "above the fold" in the left vertical column. "What's New" still sits atop the right column. And articles flow down the middle. The "More News" section, which I select from an RSS feed of other Mac sites, has been moved down on the right column. These changes are consistent with your preferences for content. Here's how you rated these different areas.

Content Respondents Percentage
Articles 1,11798 percent
Weblogs 65557 percent
What's New 57050 percent
More News 25122 percent
Newsletters21719 percent
Talkbacks 17916 percent

My biggest surprise here is that talkbacks didn't rate higher on the list. My personal feeling is that lots of good information appears in this reader-contributed area, and that a complete article is really the original copy plus the talkbacks.

On a different note, I'm happy to read that 20 percent of you really enjoy the biweekly newsletter.

In terms of the actual subjects we write about, there's quite a horse race. (People could check as many of the areas as they liked for this question.) "Mac OS X technologies" led the way with an 81 percent preference, followed by "Power user tips/hacks" at 79 percent, and "Programming tutorials" at 73 percent. What didn't you like? Well, "News coverage" weighed in at only 17 percent. My guess is that you're getting that info somewhere else.

And the most surprising data about your site preferences had to do with how you access our content:

Access Pt. Respondents Percentage
Visit home page and browse 1,00974 percent
Via search engine links 151 11 percent
Via links from other sites 193 14 percent
Via RSS feed 561 41 percent
Via Atom feed 81 6 percent

In this day of RSS and Google, I was pleasantly surprised to see that so many of our regular readers come to the home page first. Of course those numbers would probably change quite a bit for casual readers who find specific articles via search engines.

Finally, almost half of you said that on more than one occasion you've purchased an O'Reilly book because of a Mac DevCenter article (47 percent). Right on! Because when asked if you'd be willing to subscribe to ad-free content, only 23 percent of you said that you'd consider it. The other 71 percent said that you'd rather have ads than pay.

Survey Comments

For the most part, it seems as though the adjustments we've made since the last survey are sitting well with you. Our steady readership values the tutorials and power user articles. Generally speaking, people want more of this stuff. My comment to that is, I will publish as much as the budget allows. I'm looking for ways to increase revenue on this site (without messing up the user experience). If I'm successful, I'll invest as much as possible in the beefier articles (after paying overhead of course!).

Some readers asked about content that I know we already have in the archives (but apparently they didn't). So I want to remind you to use the search box atop the right column. It will help you locate the stuff you're looking for.

I also heard loud and clear those of you who inquired about Universal Binaries. As we get closer to the Intel migration, I'll make sure you have helpful content for the transition.

Final Thoughts

One thing I like about this audience is the expressed support for the site, even when complaints were part of the communication. Almost every comment contained encouraging words, urging us to keep moving forward and to continue serving serious Macheads all over the world.

That's exactly what we're going to do. I'll continue to keep the homepage fresh so you always have something interesting to read when you stop by, even if you've already plumbed the depths of our posted articles.

Our publishing schedule is two new articles a week (usually on Tuesday and Friday evenings), refreshed news at least twice a day, weblogs daily, and the newsletter every other week. The welcome mat is always out for new writers, so please drop me a line if you have something good to share with your peers.

And finally, notification emails will go out in October for the winners of the survey drawing. If you won, we'll contact you at the email address you listed in the survey.

Thanks so much for being an active participant in this community. We're glad you're here.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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