Everyone is talking about mobile these days
- Mobile users will overtake the number of desktop Internet users within 5 years
- Smartphone adoption is now an avalanche. In Q4 2010, over 100 million smartphones were sold, up 87% from the same time period in 2009
- Manufacturers shipped more smartphones than personal computers in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the Financial Times
- In 2011 marketers are forecast to spend $14 billion in mobile marketing
- By 2013 it is predicted there will be more smartphone users than PC users
If these numbers don’t sway you, then you can always look at the metrics for your own website currently. We can almost guarantee that you’ll see a compelling trend of mobile visitors to your existing website.
The question for your business: are your mobile visitors getting the content and the user experience that will convert them into clients? Or are they leaving because they’re not getting what they need?
You don't have to develop an app.
People often assume that having a mobile presence means creating some sort of smartphone application (“app”), but that’s only one of the options out there -- and frankly, it may not be the best option for you. Mobile websites, while different from apps, are leading the early return on investment in mobile marketing solutions.
To put it simply, the difference between an app and a mobile website is that an app is an application downloaded onto a mobile device either by a manufacturer or by a user, whereas a mobile website is instantly available when accessing the Internet through a mobile device. A mobile website requires no downloading on the part of the user, and unlike most apps, all mobile websites have no additional cost to smartphone users outside of their monthly cell phone bill.
Just like Apple and Microsoft have competed in the operating system space for decades, mobile faces the same challenge with iPhone, Android, Blackberry as well as other platforms that are competing for their slice of market share in the world of mobile operating systems.
An app has to be redesigned to meet the requirements of each platform or operating system. Apps also go through lengthy processes to get approved and launched through several phone platforms and require different programming knowledge and expertise for each operating system. Mobile websites, by contrast, are available on all mobile platforms through a web browser as a single design. This makes mobile websites easier to create with lower overhead and quicker launch timelines. According to Forrester Research Analysts, the fragmentation of mobile platforms is not likely to let upvi. Mobile websites cut through all of this red tape, are immediately viewable across all platforms, and quite frankly make a lot of sense.
Each mobile device may have slightly different naming conventions for accessing their browsers or application stores.
Mobile vs Web Browsing Habits
Understanding the behaviors of mobile web browsing is critical to understanding what your customers and prospects need when they engage with your organization through their mobile device. When sitting at a computer there is a larger screen, time to explore tabs and columns, and a more exploratory method of engaging. When using a mobile device, users are on the go and want to find key information fast without a lot of typing, searching around or scrolling. What your audience needs is for your site to anticipate what they most want to find and put it in front of their face as quickly as possible. Without this, a mobile user can quickly grow impatient with having to zoom and click through layers to find the information they seek. If the same design and layout strategy is used for your mobile presence as a traditional website there is a risk of actually losing visitors!
A website that’s not optimized for mobile usage can result in text too small to read, and unclear navigation. A user needs to pinch, scroll, or double-tap just to be able to get the most basic information and figure out where to go.
So what’s different? Mobile web users don’t want to browse, they want to find information and find it quickly. From the design perspective, less is more:
- Make your text readable -- don’t force your users to double-tap the phone just to ensure they can read the basics.
- One column of information rather than several fits nicely on a smartphone screen.
- Minimal clicking to get to important information is essential.
- Prioritizing how information appears should be done by determining the pages most visited on your website and placing that content at the top.
- Clear visuals that minimize clutter also help visitors find the specific pieces of information they are seeking.
This pared-down method helps enable mobile browsing behavior and ensure visitors return. Furthermore the design has a great impact on bandwidth usage and it’s important to keep in mind that a mobile device may have a slower connection than a computer.
Mobile content strategy should follow suit with the design. Less is more because you have less time with visitors using mobile devices, as well as less screen real estate. If a few sentences get the point across, it’s best to reduce lengthy content wherever possible to create crisp minimal messaging. The best way to ensure effective brief communication is to use knowledge of what your prospects and customers most want from you and make this front and center.
Of course a mobile website can easily link back to the main website with all the bells and whistles. Optimizing your content as it appears on a mobile screen with the option to link back to your main website gives visitors the best of both worlds.
Will a Mobile Site Benefit Me?
One of the most important questions to answer when considering a mobile strategy is “Will a mobile site benefit me?” Fortunately, this can be a very easy question to answer if you have a current website and are using Google Analytics (or a similar package) for tracking your website traffic.
What analytics of your website can tell you.
Digging into your current website analytics can provide a wealth of information to help you decide how much benefit you can receive from a mobile site as well as what that mobile site should do.
If you’re using Google Analytics on your current site, you can quickly find the overall numbers of mobile devices that are accessing your website and compare the averages of those visitors to the averages of non- mobile devices.
The variance in these averages can quickly be used in deciding how much impact a mobile version of your website might have on your site visitors.
Let’s take a look at some of the key measurements that you’ll want to review.
TOTAL NUMBER OF MOBILE DEVICE VISITORS / This measurement is the first stop in determining whether your audience is part of the mobile demographic.
AVERAGE PAGES PER VISIT / With this measurement you’ll want to compare your mobile device average to the average from non-mobile devices. What you want to see is these numbers to be similar. If, on the other hand, the number of pages per visit on mobile devices is significantly lower than non-mobile, it could mean that your mobile visitors are becoming frustrated and leaving your site earlier than they would have had they been on a non- mobile device.
AVERAGE BOUNCE RATE / This metric is very similar to pages per visit. You’ll want to compare the mobile to non-mobile. If your average bounce rate is higher on mobile devices, this can also mean that your visitors are becoming frustrated by the very first page they visit and they’re not coming back. This is definitely not what you want and a mobile specific version of the site could be a big benefit.
AVERAGE TIME ON SITE / Like average bounce rate, and average pages per visit, this statistic should be compared mobile to non-mobile and can show whether users are able to use your site as well on a mobile device as they are on a non-mobile device. If you’re seeing much shorter lengths of visits, it’s likely that your users are experiencing frustration and going away earlier than they would have on a non-mobile device.
What are your options for a mobile website?
If you’ve reviewed your current site analytics and determined that you have a good bit of mobile traffic and that the mobile visitors you have may not be as happy as they could be, you’re probably ready to get started on that mobile website. The good news is that you have options available even within the mobile web space, and at least one of them is likely to fit your budget and timing requirements. Let’s discuss the options to see what fits best for you.
CROSS-PLATFORM DESIGN / This is a website design that works reasonably well regardless of whether the visitor is coming in on a mobile or non-mobile device. The strength of this approach is that you have a single site to build and maintain. This is also a single investment versus building a non-mobile and a mobile version. The problem is that a design that is reasonable on multiple platforms usually means that it’s not ideal on any platform. So you may end up with a mediocre site that just functions on any device. This is usually not what anyone wants. But, if budget or timing constraints require it, this can be a good option to get up and running quickly at a reasonable cost -- assuming you don’t have to completely redesign your current site, but just tweak it a little (we find that this is rarely the case).
MOBILE-SPECIFIC STYLESHEET / This is simply just a restyling of your non-mobile site to fit better on a mobile device. That means that you can re-size and reorganize some items to make them fit better on a smaller screen to be a bit more usable. The strength of this approach is that you can add this onto an existing site relatively easily and with minimal expense. It does not generally require a re-engineering of the existing site so the cost can be fairly well contained, and like the first option above, you’ll still have only a single site to maintain. The problem is that because there is no rework of the existing site, engineering the site is still not optimized for mobile consumption. The bandwidth necessary to consume the site on a mobile device is still the same as it would be on a non-mobile device even though the mobile device could be on a much slower connection to the Internet. The type and amount of content on the mobile site will still be the same as on the non-mobile site even though your mobile user is probably looking for much more specific content. Again, this is not a bad solution if your budget or timing requires that you get something out the door quickly, but it’s still not an optimal solution.
COMPLETELY RE-THOUGHT MOBILE WEBSITE / The key here is that this is a version of your website re-engineered for mobile devices. The design of this version will be specific for mobile devices and make it as easy as possible for users to navigate to your most important content as quickly as possible on the small screen. Ideally, this process would also include a re-thinking of what content should be on a mobile version of your site and how that content works on the small screen. The good news, if you already have a site running analytics, is that you can see what content is already being most accessed by mobile visitors and use that as your base. It’s important to keep in mind that the job a mobile visitor is trying to complete is not necessarily the same job that a non-mobile visitor is trying to complete. A completely re-thought mobile website will focus on the job of a mobile visitor and be the best way to relieve their frustration. As we’ll see below, it’s at least as important to think through how you’ll maintain this second site as it is to develop it.
As you can see there are many factors to take into consideration when thinking about building a mobile website. First decide whether you want a mobile website or an app (or you can do both!).
A mobile website will capture the visitors that are already coming to your site -- a mobile app would require those same people to proactively seek out the app.
A mobile website can provide mobile visitors with a unique experience but still leverage your existing assets -- a mobile app would require the development and maintenance of an entirely new set of assets.
A mobile website allows you to develop and maintain a new marketing channel, but use existing technologies -- developing a mobile app requires you to explore a different set of technologies, and/or a new set of vendors.
Delve into your existing analytics history so that you and your web strategy partner can determine next steps - information architecture, design, content, and the right development approach for your site. We think you’ll find it’s well worth the effort, and that you’ll soon be converting mobile website visitors into new clients.