Ah, Mobilegeddon, the heralder of man — or so the internet warned us. Mobilegeddon landed in April with more of a whimper than a bang. The irrevocable changes weren’t quite to be. To quote the great 10 Things I Hate About You: “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”
Mobilegeddon whelmed us, by all accounts, and while mobile rankings were rejigged, most sites carried on as normal.
But with so much talk about mobile and the fact that mobile searches have surpassed desktop in more than ten countries, it’s safe to say that Mobilegeddon is only just beginning. An updated algorithm may well be on the cards. Even if it’s not, with so many searches being made on mobile, embracing a mobile strategy is a logical step.
Mobile-First: Is This Something I Should Do?
The idea of “mobile-first” is something of a misnomer. While no one can argue the importance of a mobile strategy, many experts aren’t too sure about going mobile-first. Some are downright dubious.
Mobile-first is the idea of putting mobile users first — creating sites or apps that cater to mobile users before considering desktop. The idea of mobile-first and prioritizing mobile use is a solid one — but does it deserve its place as the most important part of a development strategy?
Is Mobile-First All It's Cracked Up to Be?
Five years ago, screen sizes were moving towards being smaller and more portable. In the last year or two, we’ve gone the opposite way and embraced massive screens. And that’s before we consider wearable tech like the Apple Watch and the HoloLens, which make screen dimension even more complicated.
How can any developer be expected to contain whole websites on a screen that fits on a wristwatch?
They can’t. And that’s why mobile-first is such a misnomer: it’s a great idea in theory, but in practice a great mobile strategy should be about context and pairing a desktop site with a mobile site that works well.
No developer or company can afford to lose sight of the importance of desktop too. Mobile searches might be overtaking desktop but the way we use the channels are different — and it’s not as if the work computer or PC are going anywhere anytime soon.
Adapting to mobile-first is an awful lot easier to swallow if we drop the ‘first.’ Instead of ‘mobile-first,’ let’s consider implementing a mobile strategy. Full stop.
Fun fact: mobile devices now outnumber people. That’s a lot of devices — and even more potential business.
How to Create a Mobile-Friendly Strategy
The basic tenets of designing for mobile-friendliness are solid: easy-to-read text, navigation that makes sense, media that loads quickly and using up screen ‘real estate.’
Before you get your planning hat on, you need to remember that context comes first. How do your customers use your site? How does that translate to a smaller screen and a portable device? Do you need an app?
Let’s break it down.
1. An app shouldn’t exist in isolation
There’s no point making an app for the sake of it — especially if it doesn’t add any benefits for the user or if you use it as a ‘paywall,’ where downloading the app is the payment option. Besides, two thirds of consumers prefer mobile websites to apps.
The truth is that most companies don’t need apps. Stand-alone apps or games make sense, but in the case of most brands, the app is often an extension of that brand.
Is an app right for every business? Not necessarily, but they do come with plenty of benefits:
- Apps are always on, and a button-click away.
- Brand awareness is at an all-time high. Every time a user flicks through their phone, they see your icon.
- It’s a direct marketing channel to store any and all kinds of information.
- It’s valuable to your customer — or at least it should be. This can manifest itself in dozens of different ways, depending on the company, and includes everything from a loyalty store to an information bank or game.
- Apps improve customer engagement — presuming that the app is fun or useful, of course.
2. Design a responsive site
Adopting responsive web design is actually Google’s go-to for making a site mobile-friendly. Google giving it a positive vote lends an awful lot of credence to using responsive design.
The idea of responsive is simple: it’s all about scale and stretching or shrinking a site so it fits on all manners of devices, without needing to change the site’s code. Responsive web design embraces a basic set of principles:
- Content should work across all browsers and devices.
- The site should function across all devices.
- The site scales depending on the browser or device the user has chosen.
While the philosophy in the image above feels like something Miyagi would have said to the Karate Kid, it holds a lot of weight. Mobile is about context: responsive design and mobile content embraces that.
3. User experience is everything
Deliver a great customer experience and your users will thank you for it. If a desktop site doesn’t load in a couple of seconds, users jump ship. The same goes for mobile — but on a higher scale. Users will wait two seconds before leaving you high and dry.
Two seconds is nothing, but it makes sense. Think of the commuter on the train. He’s on the way home from work and he’s bored — wants to fill the time so he’s browsing. He gets to your site and it starts buffering. He’ll hit the back button in seconds and go somewhere else.
As well as speed, layout is a huge consideration.
Every user is on your site for a reason: they want information, entertainment or to browse with the possibility of making a purchase. Whatever their reason for visiting you, it’s your website’s job to shuttle them from Point A to Point B.
Your users, whether they realise it or not, want you to help them complete their journey. Layout is crucial. Utilize white space. Make sure text is legible. Avoid scrollbars and awkwardly zooming in at all costs.
Outline each step your user will take along their journey. Map them and how your site will facilitate those steps. If it’s not easy for the user the whole way along, you may lose them to a competitor.
And remember: people are lazy. Remove redundant clicks or extra unnecessary user interactions.
4. Mobile and desktop should be a beautiful relationship
They should work together in tandem. Every excellent mobile strategy should complement your overall marketing efforts. Take Spotify for example: stop a song on your desktop, and pick up where you left off on your mobile. Seamless!
5. Secure any and all data
An unsecure mobile or desktop site could pull your empire down to its knee. Security is absolutely vital — especially on mobile, where so many people are already logging in on unsecure wi-fi networks.
All data should be secure, regardless as to whether it’s a bank account number or a phone number. Of all the things to skimp on, security is not it. Your customers trust you to keep that data safe. Don’t break that trust.
6. Make your site easy to shop on and trim the fat
Credit cards work — but entering credit or debit card details while you’re in public or on a train or wherever isn’t always going to appeal to many customers. PayPal is a quick solution, presuming users have an account set up — but what about everyone else?
For ecommerce sites, make sure that all buttons and tills/carts/baskets are easily accessible. What use is a trolley if the customer can’t complete their purchase because the buy button is buried or hidden?
Essentially, you need to trim the fat and ensure that all your website assets are working and working well. Same goes for all rich media. Multimedia is a great asset, but it can slow your site down and get in the way, especially if it’s interactive with lots of flashy graphics and (God forbid) sound that autoplays.
Consider all the assets on your site and what they contribute. If they’re not a hard-working asset, it may be time to ditch them.
7. Measure, measure, measure
Remember what Orwell said about all animals not being created equal? The same goes for KPIs.
Always dig deep into your stats and measure what your users are doing. Are they mass fleeing a landing page? Redesign it. Are they salivating for one particular blog post? Turn it into more assets.
A/B test everything: images, fonts, copy, design and color. It all matters. See what’s working and use that to your advantage. Abandon anything that’s not going well. Your site is too important to carry around bloat and deadweight, whether it’s on a mobile device or a big-screened desktop.
Start with the common “easy” tasks. If users can complete those, then you’ve won half the battle. A buggy site will send users fleeing so test every bit of code, button, and link.
Consistency is everything.
8. Embrace great content
Content is the cornerstone of any digital strategy, and that applies to mobile too. But what are the best practices for mobile content? Is it enough to pare your desktop site to a couple of paragraphs of copy or does there need to be more?
And what about visual imagery? Video, photos, infographics…the list goes on. When we’re on our devices, we expect lots of information delivered to us quickly. Images are often an excellent way to convey complex idea easily, but there’s a caveat: screens are smaller and infinite scroll is never a good idea.
Optimise all images for the web, and always lead with your best content. Your best content is your honey trap.
For copy, formatting is key. Desktop users might forgive dodgy formatting but they’re not likely to be so forgiving on mobile. All mobile content needs to be as accessible as possible.
If your users can’t read your content it’s no use to them. So:
- Embrace short paragraphs and pared-down sentences.
- Bold your main points and split up your paragraphs so you have one idea/thought/opinion per paragraph.
- Make sure your site is responsive. We’ve made that point already, but it’s particularly important for content. No one likes zooming in or trying to figure out what the copy that ran over the edges of the screen might say.
9. Include a localized flavor
With mobile, you have the opportunity to go hyperlocal.
A whopping 56% of mobile searches are made with local intent, while 78% of local-mobile searches result in an offline purchase – often within a couple of hours. Those numbers are staggering and suggest a buying pattern: mobile users are searching on-the-go, browsing/window shopping on mobile, and then transferring that intent by purchasing in a physical shop.
This is a huge opportunity for local companies. Including local SEO in your mobile strategy, then, is a no-brainer for companies with a local intent.
Mobile doesn’t and shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. As with all your marketing efforts, it works best as part of a broader strategy. Make sure your site works well, is free of bugs, is navigable and that all your content is properly optimized and you’ll strike mobile gold.