Design Your Website With the Mobile User Experience in Mind
If it seems like smart phones have become ubiquitous over the past few years, you’re not imagining things. Everywhere you look, people are glued to their phone screens, usually either checking messages or surfing the Web.
According to research conducted by the Pew Research Internet Project, about six out of 10 American adults (58 percent) now own a smart phone — although it seems to me like it’s closer to nine or 10 out of 10. And about four in 10 American adults (42 percent) now own a tablet computer, which is remarkable given that the iPad was only rolled out by Apple four years ago!
Not surprisingly, a growing volume of Internet traffic is now happening via mobile devices. Total Internet traffic attributed to a mobile device (smart phone or tablet) rose from 18 percent at the end of 2012 to 27 percent at the end of 2013. Here at Moonstone Interactive, every one of our clients has seen their mobile traffic double in the past year.
Different Devices, Different Web Experiences
The widespread usage of mobile devices to access the Internet has very serious implications for any business that has a website. This is because the experience of accessing a website via a mobile device (whether smart phone or tablet) is very different from the experience of accessing a site via a desktop computer. And just as importantly, mobile web surfers usually have different needs and expectations from those visiting your site via a desktop.
Usually, the main priorities of a mobile visitor are to be able to access basic information quickly and easily. Restaurants are a good example: If someone is out on the town and looking for the nearest sushi restaurant, they want to know location, phone number and hours of operation, and maybe peek at the menu. This information should be easy to find when they visit a restaurant’s site without a lot of navigation or resizing.
Airlines are another good example. Southwest Airlines caught onto the importance of designing their website so that it’s mobile user-friendly several years ago. If you go to Southwest.com on a mobile device, you’ll see a simple website where it’s easy to check in, check your flight status or buy a ticket — the main things mobile users want to do on an airline website.
So how important is it to design your site so that it’s mobile user-friendly? As an anecdotal example, one of our clients has seen the percentage of its mobile site visitors increase from 10 to 38 percent over the past two years. At the same time, their bounce rate has increased by 20 percentage points. What this tells us is that as more people visit the site via a mobile device, many are becoming frustrated at its lack of mobile friendliness and leaving without taking any action.
Designing a Mobile User-Friendly Site
There are two main ways to make your website more mobile user-friendly. The first is what many early adopters like Southwest Airlines have done: build totally different websites designed for mobile and desktop visitors. While this is a very effective solution, it’s not a very efficient one.
A better solution for most companies is to use a new website technology that’s known as responsive design. This technology dynamically reformats a website based on the device that is being used to access it. It uses style sheets to reshape, resize and eliminate pages and graphics on the fly. Importantly, it does this based on screen size, not type of device, so it’s flexible enough to work with the latest releases of all different types and brands of smart phones and tablets.
It’s just as important to incorporate overall website design principles that are mobile-focused and will make your website more mobile user-friendly. One of the biggest trends in website design right now is a move back to simplicity to accommodate mobile users. This often means flatter designs with more scrolling, simpler navigation and fewer large graphics.
The growing use of mobile devices to access the Internet is sure to increase, not decrease, in the future. Given this, companies that aren’t designing their websites with the mobile user experience in mind will eventually start to lose visitors — and customers — to their competitors who do. Investing in the resources, both in terms of money and manpower, required to keep your website current with market behavior will result in positive ROI for your company in the long run.