Prepared by: I&M Content Team at Ivanhoe & McToterson
In 2008, mobile access to the internet exceeded desktop access for the first time in history. Today, two thirds of cell phone users say they access the web/email from their smartphone device. As a result, mobile browser share has enjoyed sizable growth due to faster mobile networks and steady smartphone sales. MobiThinking.com reports there are now more than 1.2 billion mobile web users worldwide, accounting for more than eight percent of total web traffic. Research conducted on U.S. website visitors suggests that, on average, website visitors are 51% more likely to do business with an online retailer if it has a mobile site. However, mobile website optimization is underutilized. More than 70% of marketers plan to spend more money on mobile in 2013.
Research has also shown that a mobile-optimized site is able to generate almost twice the average traffic per user than sites without mobile optimization. Mobile optimization can increase sales, generate more traffic, and boost customer engagement. If you haven’t optimized your website for mobile traffic yet, you are likely missing a big opportunity to market to prospects and strengthen engagement with your current customer base. So the question becomes, what are you doing to optimize your mobile website?
Step 1 in optimizing your site for mobile devices: Strategy First!
It’s better to think about what your mobile supporters want to do with you, rather than what you want them to do. Once they engage on their phones, what next steps make sense for them? How do you measure your results? The top priority for mobile must be to provide a compelling user experience. Tests have proven that showing mobile users’ content that is specifically tailored for mobile devices improves the user experience, makes the site memorable and, ultimately increases conversion rates.
Step 2: Determine what content you will include on your mobile site.
Given the restricted amount of screen space, it’s important to figure out what key pieces of information your visitors will be looking for. It’s also important to keep the steps involved in going from entry point to other webpages as simple as possible.
Step 3: Plan your site layout.
Mobile web pages will load slower than traditional web pages, so it’s important to keep the number of pages to a minimum. In addition, users won’t have the patience to click several pages deep on your site. Hence, it’s important to keep the site layout as streamlined as possible. Even though your mobile site will be much more streamlined than your standard site, you’ll still want to incorporate the same branding elements on both sides of the equation. In addition, a mobile site can use targeting to present devices with larger, high resolution displays with a richer, more graphically dense UI. On the other hand, older devices, or those on slower mobile networks, could be presented with a leaner version to ensure speedier browsing.
Step 4: Utilize white space.
When designing any website, it’s a natural tendency to cram in as much information as possible. But fight that urge. Not only does white space give a cleaner, more sophisticated appearance, it also ensures that users can easily click the button they’re aiming for.
Step 5: Minimize challenges.
When possible, use dropdown menus, checklists and pre-populated fields as a means of data entry. This helps minimize the challenges people face when typing text into a smartphone. Do not use pop-up windows. Navigating between multiple tabs and browser windows is more difficult on mobile and can cause slow load times. If you need to open a new browser window, make sure you alert your user so that they know how to navigate back to the original page.
Step 6: Identify the device.
Engage in mobile detection by checking to see if the request to your web page comes from a mobile device and if so, from what kind of device. If using the same website for mobile and desktop makes sense for your users, utilize responsive design. This will serve the same HTML for all devices and desktop, and use CSS to decide how to render that experience by the device type. All of the same information is there, but it’s presented in a way that optimizes the site for the device it’s being browsed on. If you believe the consumer experience will be better with different HTML depending on the device type, you can utilize the same URL to dynamically serve different HTML/CSS based on the user agent or device profile. Avoid flash or Java. Lastly, if you want different desktop and mobile experiences, use a different URL for your mobile website: m.yoursite.com.
Step 7: Create a link to your full website.
Make sure you include links on multiple pages that allow the user to return to the full version of the site. Once you’ve chosen the right optimization platform, you’re ready to get started on the path to improving your site for mobile users. It can be difficult to know beforehand which content, user interface element or aesthetic will be most effective with your audience. That’s why it’s critical that you test your mobile offerings before launching them so you can discover which content your users prefer on their mobile devices. Discover what works by testing elements such as navigation, image size, image choice, specific words or phrases, placement, design, graphical elements, headlines, colors, variations in functionality, or dynamic content.