The Mobile Mantra
Making sure to optimize for your audience is something developers have to constantly keep up with. During 2011-2013 we have seen mobile traffic grow at an astounding rate, leading some of the most heavily trafficked web markets such as social networking sites to reach a critical point I like to call the mobile precipice. This means mobile users now outweigh those coming from a desktop.
For example, 67% of Facebook’s monthly users come from a mobile device, which is more than doubled from this time last year. Currently, 60% of all Twitter users are strictly mobile. And at the end of 2012, mobile ownership in the US reached 88%.
What this means for us is, if we aren’t thinking about mobile first we are ignoring what will quickly become our largest user-base. Right now the web as a whole (real estate sites included) have yet to reach this mobile precipice. Is this because mobile users are still being treated as an “afterthought”?
The typical approach for mobile web has been to create a slimmed down version of the actual site and treat it more like a mobile app by limiting content and changing functionality to something more manageable for smartphones. Sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, two companies with the largest online marketing budget in the industry, are good example of companies still making this mistake.
What we have found is that there is a distinct difference between the user’s expectation of a mobile app vs. the mobile website. Users want the content and functionality of their web experience to be consistent across all platforms. For example, if I do a search for Denver Luxury Homes on my phone and the mobile site does not have the page I’m looking for, I am going to get frustrated and move on pretty quickly.
The exciting thing is we can use this as a chance to rethink our web strategy altogether. With a mobile first approach we can narrow down what content and functionality is important and effective on our sites.
The first myth I think is important to address is that users do not want to read content on a mobile device. This simply isn’t true. Effective content will always reach your audience no matter what device they are using, but because the mobile web is a smaller experience in terms of size, what we choose to put in front of the user becomes even more important. There are a few key points that can help us make sure content is effective:
- Don’t oversaturate the message. Make your information clear, concise and something people are going to want to read.
- Organize your content in a way that makes sense to the user's experience. Information about the weather is probably not why people come to your real estate site.
- Make your content visually appealing. Use short paragraphs, bullet points and images to break up the content and bring some life to the subject.
- Less is more.
Purpose should always be the driving force behind any functionality that is added to a website. Designing for mobile first gives us the opportunity to rethink our work flow in a way that makes sense on the most simple level. Here are a few things to keep in mind when adding functionality to your site:
- Identify why people come to your site. If the answer is to buy houses, the question you should ask yourself before adding any type of functionality is, “Does this help our user buys houses?” This keeps your site on track with a direct purpose.
- Don’t overwhelm users with options. Give them functionality that is effective and pertinent to their needs. This doesn’t mean limiting functionality, this means rethinking how to streamline the process to better get the user to what they are looking for.
- Don’t dumb down the experience. When someone comes to your site from a mobile device their purpose is probably just the same as it would be from a computer. The strategy needs to be, how do we reorganize our site in a way that makes sense across ALL platforms?
It is clear this is only the beginning of mobile’s dominance over the web, making right now an exciting time to watch how the internet handles the transition. This is when we are given the biggest opportunity to shape what comes next and position ourselves at the forefront to create the next generation of web experiences.