As Google shows that internet surfing has overtaken the TV as a pleasure activity, mums (and house dads) living in suburbia are revealed as the new audience for websites.

In the UK the Government’s aim is to put public services online. The increased availability of broadband is allowing families tied to the house at home to make more use of the internet, and the term ‘mousewife’ has been coined for these folks. Planning applications and making payments are the most popular services, and council websites are receiving 13 million visits a month.

Research is showing that more and more families are using these online services, finding it easy to access government and local authority services at times and places convenient to them. Some councils are finding that the internet is starting to take over from the telephone as the most popular communication channel.

The UK Government is delighted with the success of its e-government venture, as it enables savings to be made on services – as ‘mousewives’ self-serve information costs can be cut by lowering staffing levels, or money can be diverted into those services which need more cash.

Older people, ‘Silver Surfers’ are also finding they like to contact their councils in this way.

So what does the emergence of the Mousewife mean to the commercial webmaster? Internet usage during the day is becoming serious competition for day time television. People at home during the day are as likely to spend their time surfing the internet as watching repeats and chat shows.

Internet shopping has increased considerably over the last few years, and people are used to finding information on line rather than going to the local library: in fact this is one area where the world wide web really does have one over on local authority services – the book you want is never out! (Although you do have to be able to find it!)

If you have a business getting an internet presence is an absolute must as people change their behaviour. No longer will they want to pick up the phone to see if that holiday cottage is available – they want instantaneous information. If they want information about an area they won’t want to buy a travel book, but look around at the different information available on the ‘net!

In the next few months the UK Government is going to undertake a vast advertising campaign promoting online services and encouraging take up. As more and more ‘Mousewives’ and ‘Silver Surfers’ start contacting their councils online, renewing their car tax and paying their parking fines they will get more used to the internet, and will depend less and less on the telephone or high street store.

The world never stands still – you have just got to make sure you move along at the same pace (or be just a little ahead).

When you are designing your site, think of the Mousewife and the Silver Surfer – and what can you do to attract her (or him!) away from those chat shows and into your virtual store!

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