Posted on February 15, 2010 - by David Etheredge
Goals of Effective Mobile Websites
For the most part web users and mobile users are different animals. One’s a hippopatamus comfortably floating in the security of their home or office (or the local Starbucks) grazing on content for minutes and minutes at a time, wandering about as their whims or needs take them. The other is a cheetah dashing at top speed after a specific target, eyes on the kill. Hippos browse, cheetahs hunt.
Clearly this is a generalization, but it is an effective one for analyzing usage patterns for mobile and traditional websites. It all comes down to a single factor – speed. How fast does the site load? How easy is it to determine what content is available on the site and where it can be found? How consice is the messaging? Hippos have minutes or even hours to find and absorb what they need. Cheetahs have seconds.
If a mobile user cannot find and assimilate the information they need in 60 seconds or less, your website has failed as an effective mobile marketing tool.
With this assumption in mind, lets take a look at the primary goals of a commercial webite:
- Marketing Communications.
- Lead Generation & Sales.
- Productivity Enhancement.
- Content Distribution.
The purpose of Branding is to create a kind of pavlovian response in consumers so that when they think of a service or product that your company offers, they automatically jump to your brand instead of some competitor. For a lot of consumers, when they hear the word “insurance” they immediately hop to “Geico” or “Aflack” depending on whether or not they have a bigger soft spot for geckos or duckies. The height of success in branding is when consumers start using your brand name (Coke, Frisbee, Kleenex) as the common term for an entire product segment (soft drinks, flying disks, tissues).
In the world of modern marketing where entertainment is king, branding is all about crating an image that is cooler, funnier, sexier or more outlandish than the other guys. Getting noticed = successful advertising. Getting noticed repeatedly = successful branding. For mobile media, this means giving your customers a reason to come back to your site over and over until your brand is a fundamental part of their regular routine.
Of all of the goals associated with successful mobile marketing, Branding is the hardest to achieve. But it’s also the most valuable because it is the primary method by which a potential customer becomes a life-long customer. Good branding through a mobile website means giving users a compelling reason to come back to your site over and over, even if they aren’t necessarily making a purchase.
Coca-Cola does this by creating mobile games and other entertainment applications. Nike does it by offering applications that help athletes train. GoDaddy does it through “adverporn” by parading a never ending stream of “slutty” vixens in front of male consumers in a manner that suggests you’ll eventually see Danica Patrick having hot lesbian sex if you just come back to their website often enough.
All of these methods boil down to a simple rule made famous by the film ‘Field of Dreams’ – build it and they will come. The “it” is compelling content. Create entertainment, educational or productivity content on your website that provides real value to users and they will visit your site repeatedly. Next to simply providing a better product or service than your competitors, the goodwill you create with web visitors in this fashion is the most effective way differentiate your brand in the marketplace.
Marketing Communications is simply the process of telling consumers who you are, what you do and why they should choose you over your compeitors. Truly effective marketing communications drive action, such as getting customers to generate a lead through an email form, to pick up the phone and call your sales force or to close an online or offline sale. Bad marketing communications create unecessary impediments to actions and in the worst case will cause a potential customer to leave your website with the attitude that you are not a company with which they wish to do business.
Website design and marketing communications are not the same thing. Many web designerers have no understanding of how to properly drive desirable consumer behavior because they have no experience or formal training in sales or marketing. Relying on a designer who is not a trained marketing professional may result in the development of a website that is so poorly conceived that it is a deterrant to potential customers.
It is often better to have no website at all, than to have one with poorly concieved messaging. This is particularly true of mobile websites where you literally have seconds to communicate to a visitor why they should choose your company over your competitors.
For the vast majority of businesses, Lead Generation & Sales are the most important functions of their website. All the content and messaging in the world means nothing if you are not able to eventually convert visitors into sales.
In the mobile realm, the KISS principle fully applies. Searching for, learning about and buying products using a smartphone or other mobile device should be the simplest process possible. For traditional website users, there is a wealth of data informing us that a measurable percentage of potential consumers are lost for each additional step required of the user during the ordering or checkout process.
For mobile users the importance of this lesson cannot be understated – generating a sale or a lead through a mobile device must be so simple and easy that even a South Carolina beauty queen can do it.
It only takes a few minutes for a competent business person to start thinking up ways that Smartphones could be used in the field to cut costs or enhance productivity for just about any business you can imagine.
Combine a GPS locator with a digital camera and an easy to use online form and drivers can send a report to both the police and their insurance company complete with exact location, photos of their car and the other parties insurance, driver’s license and contact information just seconds after an accident occurs.
The potential for using smartphones for productivity enhancement is mind boggling and over the next few years a billion dollar industry is certain to emerge developing smartphone applications just like the one described above. Smartphone application development is a topic we’ll explore in another article, but for now the important thing to understand is that the first step in creating and distributing smartphone applications is to build a mobile website where users will be able to find, learn about and download such applications in the future.
Finally we have content distribution which is the process of making media and data available to users in various forms including articles, pictures, videos and audio files.
For many businesses content distribution is not currently of primary importance. But for newspapers, tv & radio networks, universities, the blogosphere and the entertainment industry at large, content distribution is the cornerstone of their surival. For such organizations, insuring that online content including news articles, video segments and radio shows are accessible and easy to use on smartphones will be the difference between success and failure in an online world dominated by mass market mobile users.
And now we come to the heart of the matter – the user. Mass market mobile users have a disease, and the only cure isn’t more cowbell, its a fever. Or to be exact a F.E.V.R
FEVR is an acronym for “Fast Easy Visual Results”. Clearly, making a website load fast, easy to use and understand, visually stimulating and results oriented should be the absolute top priority of every web designer whether they are developing for computer browsers or smartphones!
But it’s not.
Websites are generally designed around text and not graphics. Search engines like text. Programmers like text. Web browsers like text (“http” stands for “hyper text transfer protocol”). Look at the vast majority of websites and you’ll see that the text to graphics ratio is routinely 2 or 3 to 1 or greater.
But people don’t like text so much, they like pictures. There’s a reason why proud parents open up their wallet to show you photos of their kids instead of handing you a photocopy of juniors birth certificate. For human beings, pictures are a fast, easy and fun way to share information.
Websites that are designed around text are fast for web browsers to load and easy for search engines and computers to process. But if you want to make a site fast and easy for people, you need to build it primarily around graphics, not text.
What this means is that most modern day websites are too complex and too text heavy to drive effective results with mobile users. To drive results, a mobile site must be fast and easy to use and for people, fast and easy equates to a visual medium. Fast, Easy, Visual Results – FEVR!
The good news is that your existing website may already contain most of the content (pictures, multimedia and copy) required to build an excellent mobile website. The bad news is that building a good mobile website is more akin to creating a printed marketing piece like a brochure, sales kit or catalog, than it is to building a traditional website. In other words, you probably need to redesign your existing website if you wish to effectively engage mobile users.
To learn more about how to build a mobile website, check out ‘Website Design for Smartphones – Part 3′.
If you haven’t already done so, you may find it useful to read ‘Website Design for Smartphones – Part 1‘.