Basic Rules of Mobile Web DevelopmentAugust 6th, 2012 by Ted Verani
We recently had the pleasure of continuing our relationship with Mobile Marketer, the news leader in mobile marketing, media and commerce, by submitting an article for their annual Classic Guide to Mobile Creative. The guide was made public last week, and I am pleased to share with you our contribution titled ”Basic Rules of Mobile Web Development”, written by yours truly. In this article I explore strategy, design and creating customer value–ideas all brands must carefully consider when developing a mobile web experience.
You can find my “Basic Rules of Mobile Web Development” article below, or I also highly recommend downloading the entire Classic Guide to Mobile Creative, which features more insightful articles from other mobile veterans. Enjoy!
Basic Rules of Mobile Web Development
Having a mobile web site is table stakes and a must have for any marketing organization. It is the cornerstone of any effective marketing strategy in that it integrates seamlessly with online marketing activities (URL branding, SEO, SEM, email, social, etc.), as well as with mobile specific campaigns (mobile display ads, SMS loyalty programs, etc.). In addition, now that print media can be activated with 2-D codes and text-to-shortcode methods, mobile web sites also extend the effectiveness of traditional marketing programs and campaigns by facilitating meaningful interaction and enabling purchasing.
What is more, having a simple web site is no longer enough. Mobile sites need to be engaging, informative and optimized not just for a large range of devices, but also for the mobile-use case. Brands need to think carefully about how to extend their content and services to the mobile web with consideration to strategy, design and customer value.
The first step is determining the main objectives for your mobile web initiatives. Is the goal branding, revenue, customer retention, loyalty, cost savings or a combination of these? Examine how these objectives align with the unique characteristics of mobile devices and use the findings as a stepping stone for developing your mobile web site.
It is critical that your planning process and subsequent mobile web development efforts are data-driven. As such, analytics should be guiding your initial go-to-market development efforts, as well as future revisions and enhancements. However, if analytics are not available to you at the planning stage, use the five design considerations below as a jump-start guide.
Mobility is about immediate access, ease of navigation and contextually relevant information. Users expect mobile services to be relevant, user-friendly and functional on their device of choice. Considering the inherent limitations of mobile devices, it can be quite challenging to design mobile sites that meet or exceed expectations of today’s consumers.
Design, both UI and UX, plays an important role in driving branding, fostering engagement and improving loyalty, ultimately translating into longer sessions, repeat visits and increased revenue.
When developing a mobile site it is important to consider the following five elements:
1. Visual Design. Visual consideration for color, font, contrast and balance is important to creating a positive first impression. Additionally, mobile sites must align with their brand identity and be visually consistent with their full online experience. Throughout the mobile site itself, the experience should be cohesive, too, without directing the user to non-optimized desktop pages. Images and videos need to fit the screen in either portrait or landscape mode, and be of high quality without weighing down the page load time.
2. Usability. It is usability that determines the quality of the user experience and is responsible for driving engagement. Keep the UI touch-friendly with expanding and collapsible menus, and properly spaced links and buttons. High value, popular features should be easily accessed with minimal navigation, so place key elements at the top and supplementary links in the footer. Choosing which features to highlight should be data-driven by examining how mobile visitors are utilizing the site. Cramming too many features or non-relevant content into a mobile site will lead to abandonment; however, offering a full-site redirect in the footer is an excellent alternative.
3. Mobility. The mobile phone’s unique characteristics should not be ignored, but rather incorporated into the mobile web user experience wherever it makes sense. Brands should leverage location based services, mapping, GPS functionality, click-to-call and other device capabilities as they become available with further HTML5 standardization.
4. Sharing. Mobile phones are fundamentally about communication. As such, they present a great opportunity to distribute content to friends and family. Adding share functionality via SMS, email and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a must for consumer-facing mobile sites.
5. Performance. While often undervalued, performance is a critical factor to fostering a positive mobile user experience. Speed is a huge factor – longer load times equal higher abandonment rates. Mobile pages should load in a few seconds, at the most; so optimize visual elements, individual screens and site flow. To help with seamless navigation through the mobile site, implement page caching and handle redirects while the page is loading.
Design choices affect brand representation, usability, performance and mobility, and so are critical factors in not just creating a positive impression, but driving engagement and generating return visits. Combined with the right, quality content, they translate into customer value, whether for entertainment, utility or social interaction. The result is a mobile web experience that is enjoyable, useful and relevant within the context of a mobile user on-the-go.