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The adoption rate of smartphones and tablets has soared in the last 12 months. This trend has ushered in a whole new generation of mobile workers (and users) that are turning to the web on their internet-enabled mobile devices to acquire information that helps them make decisions on the move. So how is your company catering for them?
The majority of websites just aren’t probably optimised for this mobile onslaught. And that really is a problem, because the mobile workforce consumes information in a very different way than people sitting at their desks staring at a computer screen. Mobile apps, while popular at present, don’t seem to represent a short or long-term solution and it’s been suggested as many as 72 per cent of mobile web users don’t download applications at all. So what can you do to ensure your website is working for mobile users?
Like any website, the cornerstone of success for mobile sites is a definite and clear focus on how your mobile strategy will meet overall business objectives. So you need to determine what these business goals are and then how your mobile site will fit in and help accomplish these. For many companies, this focus will begin with a consideration of the mobile visitor. Why would they want to come to your site? Will their needs be different than your main website? You have to be sure what your audience is after when looking at your site on a mobile device.
An example of this is an airline company, where there are many elements to consider. Its customers are probably aiming to do something very specific such as checking in, changing a ticket, finding out the flight status as well as checking ticket prices. Show them what is relevant and optimize the navigation so that it is easy to understand and navigate. So be clear about what people want from your mobile site and adapt your content to match. Remember to consider things like localisation and location-based marketing to help personalise the experience. For example, if you’re a retailer, then in-store offers could help drive sales and add value to the customer experience, more so than merely rendering a copy of the main site; the user needs will be different. Your mobile strategy will provide an opportunity to offer services you could not offer in any other way.
Once you know why you want to go mobile, you need to think about how you’re going to deliver the content. The question here isn’t whether you’re going to develop a mobile app or a mobile version of your site, but focus instead on the customer and how, when or why they will access your site on a mobile device. If they interact mainly with your content, then a mobile version of the site may be enough, with images and text optimised appropriately. But if users are likely to want to interact with the site and get a truly personalised mobile experience, you need to think differently. Concentrate on how you will best serve the user with the functionality they really require.
When designing your mobile site, you need to be smart about content. Think about the amount of information a mobile user will be able to take in at any given time. Think about headlines and whether content needs to be shorter. You should also think about functionality such as scrolling and zooming. Get back to basics and cut down your template, using your CMS, to simplify and prioritise the flow of information. But it is about more than just providing clear navigation. Once your visitors are on the site you may want them to following a purchasing ‘flow’, so try to give them a logical path. It’s important that mobile visitors can reach the content they need with as few clicks as possible. Redesign your navigation to be vertical. If you think about your mobile site from the mindset of an app, then it is likely to be easier to use.
One of the great things about creating a mobile site is that you can use location-based services. Many of today’s mobile devices have inbuilt GPS technologies to help you identify where your users are. The only minor draw back is that this information has to be obtained via an opt-in: ‘Can we use your current location?’ But once known, you can show your users content relevant to their location and can even personalise the content the user will be able to see based on that. Again, it is about adapting to what the visitor will want from their mobile experience and interaction with you.
Facebook users that access the site via their smartphone are twice as active as users that access the site via the desktop. So, use mobility to your advantage and make sure your content can easily be seeded and shared on social media channels and/or that mobile visitors can use their social profile when accessing your site. You should also make it as easy as possible to engage with content on your site. Limit the input the visitor has to make, especially when you already know things about them. Don’t ask them to complete long forms; think like Amazon, and make ‘one click purchasing’ (or converting) a goal.
While designing for a mobile site may be somewhat different, your mobile focus should still remain part of your overall online strategy, because your customer will just see your brand, not your delivery channel. Make sure your channels connect and support each other, even though you are using different delivery methods. As mobile devices and tablet computers continue to gain ground, and the world’s mobile workforce (and users) increases, a mobile website is going to become an increasingly important feature for many companies. So work out whether your company can benefit from a mobile strategy, and if so, how you’re going to ensure it is user friendly in order to reap the rewards.