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Ready for a Mobile Site? Rethink Everything

by
Jody Ordioni
Aug 30, 2012, 5:44 am ET

Loews Hotels’ award-winning mobile site

Based on a recent study by Mongoose Metrics, only 9% of all the websites in the world are optimized for mobile devices. And yet more and more people are viewing sites on smartphones and tablets. That means your site is probably failing a large part of your audience.

So you need to make your site mobile-ready. It’s not easy. You have to rethink everything.

Rethink Design

A lot of clients I speak to think that “mobile optimization” means just shrinking their site to fit on a smaller screen. There’s much more to it. Because of the different needs of a mobile user and the different experience of a phone, the entire design has to change. This means bringing in your creative director to craft a new look and feel for the site, while keeping your branding. Seem like a big step? It’s only the beginning.

Rethink Navigation

Everything must be scaled down for a mobile site. Only the most important sections should remain, and they should all be prominently on the homepage. Compare the Farmers Insurance website to its mobile site. The many options and documents have been reduced to just four items: reporting a claim, paying their bill, finding an agent, and browsing products. If you want to ensure users have access to more information, you can always include a link to your full site.

Web version

Mobile version

Rethink Text

There’s only so much room on a mobile screen, so try to keep text to a minimum. Most of the navigation should be done through buttons, large words, and clear icons. Look at AT&T mobile careers site. Notice how it divides departments by icons, with very small text below. On a “normal” website, these options could be simple text links. But for a mobile site, you should never make your visitors squint.

AT&T Careers emphasizes icons over text

Rethink Experience

The mobile experience is very different from a desktop one. Big graphic files or videos, which usually aren’t an issue, must now be weighed against the time it takes for them to load. Avoid Flash animation, since most mobile devices don’t currently support Flash. And different mobile operating systems are different web browsers; what looks great on an iPhone may not look good on a Samsung Galaxy.

A great example of a totally “rethought” mobile site comes from Loews Hotels. The phone’s site uses the phone’s GPS to find the nearest hotel and offers four simple choices: Visit, call, map, book now. Navigation on the homepage is a simple scrolling menu with photos, short descriptions, and buttons large enough for a thumb. Choosing “Contact Us” at the top offers the option to “Click here to book through a mobile device,” in case users missed it. It’s a clean, simple, informative mobile experience. No wonder it won the Web Marketing Association’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Mobile.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Ed Newman

    Great article Jody. I particularly agree with you on the Rethinking Experience. As we continue to move into the era of mobile web, we will eventually need to kick the habit of building interfaces to our old systems, and start with a new perspective.

    One other important thing to remember is that while you are rethinking everything, make sure you Think About Everything. While I like that Farmers Insurance page, easy to read and navigate – there is no link to careers, you have to go back to the main non-optinized site for that. Same with Loews Hotels.

    I think if you are going to mobile optimized your corp site, you better include your career site too.

  2. Peter Fontijn

    @Ed Sonos.com is a nice example. They have your jobs mobile as well.

  3. Ed Newman

    Peter – Sonos is actually good example of another problem I have found with mobile. You go to sonos.com on your mobile and you are redirected to a nice optimized site – but there is no link to jobs. You go back and search Sonos and Jobs, you see a link to Sonos.com/Jobs and when you hit it on your mobile you get redirected back to the other site, with no link to careers. You cannot even get to the Sonos jobs from your mobile. We have identified several other pitfalls in our Corporate Mobile Readiness Report – you can access and download here: http://www.imomentous.com/download/

  4. Jody Ordioni

    Thanks for the comment, Ed. I totally agree that a careers site should be optimized as well. UPS released some eye-opening numbers recently; they recruiting around 1,000 new employees through mobile, including QR codes and text messages. As everyone gets a mobile device of some kind, more people will use it for both shopping and job-searching.

  5. Peter Fontijn

    Thanks Ed. Appearantly Sonos USA has no jobs now; in Europe we’re redirected to the (mobile) jobs @ http://www.sonos.de That page does contain jobs!

  6. Jay Silver

    @Peter, can you please provide the mobile URL? I’m unable to find it. Thanks.

  7. Peter Fontijn

    @jay here’s a redirect: http://mjo.bs/Z3K

  8. Keith Halperin

    Does anyone know if the application process for a given company is the same or easier on mobile? Considering how difficult many werbsites application processes are, I’d hope so…

    Keith “Easier, Faster, Cheaper” Halperin

  9. HR Blogposts der Woche 35/2012 | HR Software Blog

    [...] werden, wie zum Beispiel das Design oder die Navigation. Hilfreiche Tipps dazu gibt es beiĀ ERE. [...]

  10. Morgan Hoogvelt

    Great article and information. Mobile is very different and very important for the near and distant future.

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