At this point in its maturity it is fair to say mobile use is an accepted and popular form of computing. Mobile may continue to change and mature as technology continues to advance but it is a preferred way of performing what used to be considered desktop computer-only tasks.
The growth of the Android platform and the popularity of Apple’s iPhone have made mobile activities a need and not just a novelty. Many of our clients are aware of the growing need for a mobile-friendly site but are unsure where to start and how to plan for what seems to be a moving target.
When consulting with our clients, we break down a mobile strategy into four different areas – Overall Goals, Audience, Site Architecture and Design. By answering a few questions in these areas we can help build an effective long-term mobile strategy.
Overall Goals - Defining your overall mobile goals is the first and obvious step in your mobile strategy. Determining whether your mobile site will only provide product (or service) information or should be built to accommodate ecommerce will certainly make a difference. A domain strategy should also be considered. There is not a standard mobile domain structure however two of the more common structures being used in 2011 are m.yoursite.com and mobile.yoursite.com. A decision about what devices you will want to optimize for will also play a large role in your overall mobile strategy. As you are probably aware, mobile platforms are not standardized and in order to provide the user a seamless experience, device-specific content should be provided. We were recently challenged to create a mobile landing page for a client who wanted to ensure all phones could read the page. But after explaining that this approach would be more time consuming and expensive, we worked together to create a new strategy which included a mobile landing page that rendered nicely on a pre-defined list of common devices. We even have clients using SMS as a first step into mobile. SMS allows you to test how accepted the use of mobile will be without putting in the resources to building a complete site. There are many third-party tools that make managing a SMS or text campaign easy.
Audience - Understanding your audience also will play a role in building your long-term mobile strategy. Your audience will dictate what functionality your mobile site needs. It is important to note that just because your company’s typical demographic may not fit that of the mobile generation there still may be pockets of your customer base that do use and expect a mobile-specific site. We have a client whose demographic skews to the 55+ year old range but are seeing consistent growth in mobile traffic month over month. This came as a surprise since they assumed their typical customer base may not have an interest in visiting their site through a mobile device.
Site Architecture - A mobile strategy can mean building a mobile site, mobile application or both. Often times creating a mobile site that is a one-to-one replica of the current site may not prove to be effective. For this reason we recommend treating the mobile site like it is a separate entity and begin architecting the site from scratch. Base the site structure on the overall mobile goals to learn what content and functionality must be included. Balancing the user experience with the brand experience will typically be struggle. Marketing text and heavy branded imagery should take the back seat to the overall functionality. Highlighting the absolutely required functionality should be the primary goal.
Finally, Design - If you’ve surfed any sites from your mobile device, you will quickly notice that there is limited space for design. Typically you will find a header with a logo or branding message and possibly some icons or images within the body of the page. The design should not rely on tables and instead a linear layout to increase usability. Mobile users expect to scan content quickly top-to-bottom without any left-to-right manipulation.
The biggest factor in the mobile design, other than branding, is the ability to effectively navigate. There are a few different approaches to navigation depending on the type of device being targeted. Some navigation structures include numerical associations for the users using a number pad versus a full keypad while others use button images for navigation.
The design of the mobile should naturally align with the overall mobile goals you’ve established at the outset. Your short-term goals may simply have to be a branded mobile version of your main website to test your audience’s adaption and use.
As with any project, there is upfront planning that needs to be done to ensure a successful project. The key areas discussed in this blog will help aid your conversations as you move into the mobile internet space. Aware can help you facilitate these conversations as you assess your mobile needs and we can also assist in the strategy, design and development as you move forward.