There’s little doubt that the future of internet connectivity is mobile. According to UK government figures, access to the internet via a mobile more than doubled between 2010 and last year – so this is how most people now surf the net.
Little wonder then that companies from all sectors are looking at what they need to offer customers who are increasingly more likely to shop, check their local cinema listings or book a holiday on their phones than via their desktop computers.
“The problem is that too often companies simply take the design and functionality of the website they’ve built for desktop users, and simply try and shrink it for smaller screens, but this simply doesn’t work,” says Carin van Vuuren of Usablenet, a technology company which has helped brands optimise their websites for mobile since 2000.
Instead, to have an effective mobile strategy, argues Ms Van Vuuren, companies need to start with a framework and a vision of how they want their customers to experience their web content on a mobile device, and build out from there. “It’s essential to define the goals for the user and for your business,” she says.
The mobile site that Usablenet created for Marks & Spencer is a prime example of these guiding principles. It’s fully optimised, complementing online shopping on the new website and M&S existing footprint of stores.
The essential difference is the need for sophisticated search and absolute simplicity of information when viewed on a smaller screen
“We worked with M&S to ensure that the mobile site meets their users’ goals and makes shopping easy. Whether a shopper comes to the site knowing exactly what they want or whether they are just browsing, the mobile site is designed to streamline tasks and reduce barriers to purchase,” says Ms Van Vuuren.
Speed is key on mobile, and the site eliminates unnecessary page loads, making it simple for shoppers to browse and get to the cart within seconds. Visual icons and cues guide shoppers to find information they need to complete their purchase quickly and reduce unnecessary calls or delays.
With another client, Carphone Warehouse, the company’s extensive product portfolio involved complex decisions by customers about choosing handsets, service plans, insurance and accessories. The mobile functionality had to address users’ trend to research on the go, and ensure that every plan, handset and tariff option is easily available and comparable.
Research showed that desktop customers’ needs are not necessarily those of mobile customers. Usablenet realised that the essential difference between these channels is the need for sophisticated search and absolute simplicity of information when viewed on a smaller screen.
Having a multichannel vision when designing the mobile experience ensures the mobile site successfully drives store traffic while maintaining and increasing conversions on mobile. Key functionality on the m-commerce site includes search, expandable menus, a GPS-enabled store finder as well as a deal finder.
“Mobile is not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative. Mobile experiences, whether on the web or via an app, need to be continuously updated, revised and improved, incorporating analytics and insights from data gathered, user feedback and technological advances,” says Ms Van Vuuren. “Now, more than ever, brands need to think and act differently when developing their mobile experience.”
Want to learn more? Find out how Usablenet can create a highly optimised mobile or tablet site for you by calling 0203 617 3200