It goes without saying that more users access websites on mobile devices of all kinds (from tablets to smartwatches, and everything in between), but did you know that ClickZ’s research shows that in the six months from June 2014 until November 2014, nearly half of the traffic to Google came from mobile users? That is over 8 billion mobile hits.
Mobile users spend significantly less time on site, visit significantly fewer pages per visit, and bounce at a significantly higher rate. All of this data points to one conclusion: mobile experiences must be significantly optimized to differ from desktop experiences.
Optimizing these 5 elements will ensure that mobile users find what they are looking for on your site, complete their conversion, return often, and maybe even share your site with their social networks:
1. Mobile personas
Optimizing a site for mobile users isn’t just about fitting the website on a smaller screen. To truly optimize the mobile user experience, you need to understand your mobile users, their drivers, their expectations, and their pains.
By tracking mobile users and studying their online behavior from their various devices, we can create a new set of personas. While their biographical information may mimic your desktop personas, you will find that their behavior likely does not. On mobile, they need to get in, find what they want, and get out – quickly. You will need to analyze their unique mobile gestures such as tap, double-tap, zoom, pinch, scroll, swipe, and tilt.
Responsive templates often have the 3-bar icon in the top left corner to indicate the navigation menu, but optimizing mobile user experience must go above and beyond the three bars.
To truly optimize a mobile website’s navigation, research the hierarchy of the information architecture and, most importantly, study the behavior of mobile visitors. Understand what they are looking for, how they go about finding it, and what frustrates them enough to make them bounce. The ability to drill down to individual session playbacks is a helpful tool for optimizing navigation.
3. Load time
The stats prove what we have all experienced as users: time is of the essence. Mobile users have less patience to wait for sites to load, and increased competition in the mobile space means that if they bounce off your site, they will likely find what they are looking for somewhere else.
The solution is to find a balance between speed and enhancements. Mobile connections are often unstable and unreliable, so you must decide which element are necessary to convey your message to the mobile user and get rid of the rest. Then, opt for conditional loading. Do not load any resource-heavy third party integrations like Adsense, webfonts, or social counters.
4. Test cycles
While it may seem like the mobile version of the site would be quicker to test than its desktop “older brother,” the opposite is actually true. Do not consider your mobile site as a “dumbed down” version of your regular site. An optimized mobile experience, while perhaps minimalistic in design elements, will take longer to test.
Mobile responsiveness must be tested on as many devices and platforms as possible. Mobile user experiences should be tracked carefully and analyzed methodically. In general, a mobile site takes twice as long to test as a regular site.
5. Cross-channel content responsiveness
Optimizing the mobile user experience does not end with optimizing and testing the mobile site. You must consider all channels. For example, if you send SMS text messages to your subscribers, you must make sure all links refer to your mobile site. Also, make sure all videos on the site are available for playback on mobile devices.
A mobile user experience that delights
When it comes to user experience (mobile and otherwise), it is easy to illustrate examples of the “Don’ts.” As mobile users, we have all been frustrated by slow loading sites, buttons that don’t work, text that is too small, or the wicked sites that aren’t responsive at all. A mobile experience that is seamless, quick, easy to navigate, and allows users to convert quickly will amplify the number of return visits and social shares while reducing the number of bounces and support calls.