Ready for mobile? Here’s what you may be doing wrong…

Mobile is set to overtake desktop traffic next year. Nearly half of all online sales are now completed through a smartphone or a tablet, up from 32 per cent the previous year. Being optimised for mobile is probably the number-one issue in commerce right now.

Yet many sites are deeply flawed for mobile – some are merely desktop sites in disguise. So it’s vital to do a quick health check to identify cardinal sins.

Before getting into technical stuff, the first thing is to make sure the website’s goals are correct. Early thinking split mobile and desktop. Then came responsive web design (RWD) which gave rise to the phrase “mobile first”. The proliferation of screen sizes and devices means that mobile first is a false choice. A better motto is “customer first”. This means giving customers the perfect experience on every screen.

The website must be rendered perfectly for all screen variations and for all standard browsers. No pinching or zooming to view images or content is allowed. No pdfs. It should be easy for users to fill in forms. Links ought to be finger-friendly. If steps can be eliminated, to simplify transactions, they should be eviscerated.

One basic error is a failure to place a search box on the home page. A prominent search box can drive conversion by ten-fold.

Speed is vital. Consumers expect mobile pages to render in less than three seconds. In fact, 85 per cent of mobile users expect pages to load as fast or faster than they load on desktop devices. The rise of 4G means the mobile experience has improved for consumers. But 4G is not available on all devices or at all times, even for 4G-enabled devices. It is vital websites can beat the three-second barrier on 3G. If mobile users need to download a megabyte of data, they will be waiting five to ten seconds. This is not acceptable.

The solution is to keep pages light for mobile devices. Cut out high-resolution images, moving graphics interchange formats (GIFs) and redundant text. Pop-ups should be axed. A minimalist layout will allow the users to focus on what they want to see. Load speeds will rise. Bounce rates will fall.

These are basics. Fail on any of these and customers will either go back to their desktop or to a rival’s website. Yet “customer first” demands a lot more from websites. Personalisation is key. Every user should be served tailored content. It is a simple task, yet one missing from an awful lot of sites.

Personalisation can be done by referencing browser history or the user’s purchase history. If the user always buys the same products, then place these front and centre from the word go. Social log-ins, such as Facebook and Google+, are great for this. It is possible to gather information on a user’s likes, network and social profile.

Shopping-cart optimisation is a priority. Topshop gets it right with a simplified checkout and prominent progress bar so users know where they are in the process

Location is a key ingredient. Does your site adapt currencies based on the user’s location? Shipping options and certain location-specific content ought to auto-configure. A quick method to personalise is to use third-party feeds. Travel sites can display weather conditions or storm conditions on utility company sites. There are so many possibilities that there really is no excuse for offering no personalisation at all.

Usablenet - stats

Shopping-cart optimisation is a priority. A tiny glitch at the cart will trigger abandonment. A consistent fault is too many steps in the checkout process. Consumers need to be able to complete their transactions with the absolute minimum of new-page loading. A drastic error is “forced registration”. Consumers want to buy, not sign-up to your newsletter at the vital moment.

Adding mobile payment options, such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Wallet, can let consumers skim through the checkout process. It may be necessary to rebuild your checkout for different platforms. What works on desktop may not be the best way to handle users on 4.3-inch mobile devices. The ultimate crime? You can still see mobile sites directing users to the desktop checkout page. This is completely unacceptable.

Lastly, consumers love having access to customer service on mobile. A “click to chat” or “live chat” function can ensure users get help before they abandon the website.


Topshop have optimised their shopping-cart process using a progress bar

When rectifying errors, or improving by iterations, the golden rule is to test repeatedly. Pre-testing each and every stage of the mobile site ensures you don’t waste valuable developer resources building sites which are slow or deliver poor user experiences.

A great way to ensure your website is performing well is to benchmark against a top performer. Topshop is one of the UK’s elite retail sites, with more than four million visits a week. A huge chunk of that traffic is via mobile. In December 2014, Topshop launched a new mobile site, running on an application programming interface basis, with a refreshed user experience and redesigned checkout flow.

The experience is contextually relevant for mobile, with home-page images changing frequently to encourage clicks to product pages. Topshop offers a simplified checkout with a prominent progress bar so users know exactly where they are in the process.

Topshop’s revamp was conducted in partnership with Usablenet, a mobile technology company that helps brands create and build award-winning experiences in mobile. Leading global brands, including seven of the top-ten UK retailers, partner with Usablenet to create multiscreen experiences their customers value.

With Usablenet’s tools and advice, you can address the four key questions for mobile:

  • Is our mobile a user-centric experience?
  • Are we following fundamental user-experience (UX) practices that users have come to expect on mobile?
  • Have we eliminated barriers to purchase on mobile?
  • Have we designed with speed in mind?

Get these right and your website will be well placed to handle even the most impatient consumers, no matter what device they are on.

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