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July 15, 2011

5 Misconceptions About the Mobile Web

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  misunderstood market This is a guest blog post written by Adrian Mendoza.  As co-founder of Marlin Mobile , he  helps businesses create and deliver a winning mobile user experience by understanding and overcoming the fragmentation in the mobile market. 

The mobile web is growing faster than we can imagine.  I compared it last year to where the web was in 1998, but this year we leap forward to roughly the state of the Internet in 2001.  Standards are coming into place with HTML5, adoption is growing faster on the mobile web than the desktop web, and companies are starting to do real business off of mobile devices.  Despite all the growth, major misconceptions exist among businesses about how to effectively use the mobile web to best serve their customers and support their business.

Misconception #1:  The Mobile Web Screen Is Small, So Designing For It Must Be Easier.

The mobile web browsers you find on your smartphone are far less forgiving than desktop browsers.  Your Google Analytics code, all those style sheets, and a portion of the HTML code on your website are not mobile optimized.  Don’t forget that Flash does not work on the iPhone either.  You might think, “I don’t have or need a mobile site”.  However, your customers are already visiting your page on their mobile devices.  Guess what?  You own a mobile experience, whether or not you decide to be!

The amount of content you place on your mobile website can make the difference in whether it loads in two seconds or ten seconds, winning or losing customers and sales. A mobile web site requires you to reconsider your content, resize your graphics, and rethink how your customers view your experience on a mobile device.  Remember your web strategy is NOT your mobile strategy.  Mobile does not not just mean a smaller experience, it is a more complex equation.

Misconception #2:  It Is Easy To Copy and Paste Mobile Apps From Platform To Platform.

An iPhone is an iPhone, and a Android is an Android – their users are different and so are their habits.  Don’t think that every smartphone and their users are the same.  For example, Android users are accustomed to a menu button, but iPhone users have no idea what that concept even means.  iPhone users spend twice as many hours playing games as compared to android users 1 , while Android users are the largest consumers of data compared to the other smartphone platforms 2 .  Asides from usage, the iPhone now sports 4 different models (not including iTouch and iPads), while over 50 different carrier and phone combinations (and growing) exist on the Android platform in the US!

Not only are the physical experiences different, but the performance of different phones and tablets is also an issue.  Even though a Motorola i1 performs slower than an Evo 4G by a factor of 10 3 , your brand is still impacted by the experience across both.  You must make optimize your mobile experience across multiple operating system, smartphones, tablets, and even carriers. One solution will not cut it.

Misconception #3:  It Is Best Yo Fit Everything On One Screen.

Amongst mobile devices, different screen sizes, proportions, and even screen types exist. Forget about designing for 1024 pixels or 320 pixels wide.  You must think about making a fluid design that fits across all phones and tablets.  Your customers are accessing the web on all kinds of devices, and your brand must be well presented across all screens.  Create a strategy for what you want your page to look like on tablets and phones.  Ask yourself these questions:  Do you deliver a different experience for Android and iPhones?  Do you want tablets to open your full site?  Do you want to deliver different versions of your mobile site based on a device’s performance?

Once you have chosen a mobile strategy for delivering your site across the different platforms, now is the time to think about what you place on the pages.  Forget about cramming all of your existing content into this one screen.  Your mobile site is not your desktop site, so not everything needs to come over.  Be clear, clean, and make sure the important content is on top.

Misconception #4:  Businesses Determine The User Experience.

Your customer determines the user experience.  Your customers’ needs are unique on mobile.  Whether they are comparison shopping, checking their bank balance, or reading highlights from news stories, the mobile experience is different in nature.  The mobile experience is about information at the tip of the user’s fingertips (literally!).  Mobile users will NOT navigate through a four screen registration process or a complicated user experience on their small device.  Spend the time to survey your customers and ask for their feedback on what they want to experience on their phones and tablets.  By conducting research and soliciting customer feedback, you make sure that you deliver the optimal use cases.  Better to take the time to find out what your users want and give them that, rather than dictating what you think they want.  Again, copying what your desktop site is NOT the solution.

Misconception #5:  Buttons Are Still For Clicks.

Design using your finger, a small button does not cut it anymore.  The iPhone introduced us to the swipe, the tap, the double tap, and the pinch.  The “tap” is now part of the vocabulary across all smartphones.  Whether they are left handed or right handed, your customers use their phones leveraging these gestures by using both hands and multiple fingers.  Gone are the days of the mouse.  You do not have the luxury of such precision any more.  Your mobile site must be both friendly and accessible to the fingertips.  Buttons must be bigger and require more space around them to make sure fingers tap on the correct option.  Flustered fingers mean frustrated customers.

These five misconceptions are just the starting point to understanding and embracing a mobile strategy.  As daunting as the task may seem, tools are available to help.  Your mobile success is contingent on how well your experience performs for your customers across the multitude of smartphones and tablets, bearing in mind factors like carrier, location, and signal strength all have an impact.

What would you add to this list? 

Image credit: mikeburns


Topics: Mobile Marketing

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