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5 things every mobile site needs to deliver

August 10, 2012

Michael Scully is vice president of mobile product and strategy at SoundBite Communications

By Michael Scully

When you first decide to launch a mobile site, you might ask yourself, is it not just like my desktop Web site, but smaller? Definitely not.

Today’s mobile users are on-the-go, looking for information that is easy to access and quick to find, all on a screen one-twentieth the size of their traditional monitor.

By 2013, more people will be searching the Web on their mobile phones than on a desktop or laptop. Below are the five things that your mobile site needs to deliver.

1. Simplicity. The mobile screen is significantly smaller than a traditional desktop screen, and it cannot be used to clearly represent the same amount of information as a traditional desktop screen. Keep it simple.

You may have to reorganize or reprioritize your information to keep it easily accessible on the small screen. Make sure on any given screen, the user can spot right away where she is supposed to look, what she should click, and what she is able to do with your site.

2. Touch-friendly user interface. Thumbs are bigger than mouse pointers, so leave plenty of space between links. Use big buttons and avoid small text links that can be very difficult to tap accurately with a finger.

If your mobile Web site is designed like an application, consider grouping general navigation options at the bottom of the screen rather than the top. It is easier for someone to tap the bottom of the screen while holding the device at the same time.

This is counter to most desktop sites, where the main navigation usually lives on the top of a site.

3. Contextual relevance. According to Google, one out of seven searches are currently made on a mobile device.

Mobile Web users are often looking for something very specific.

If a visitor to your site is on-the-go, what is she most likely looking for? It is highly likely she is looking for a) your location, b) your hours, or c) your phone number, so put that front and center.

Make sure this information is easy to find, and do not bury it on a sub-page like you might on a desktop site.

4. Speedy load time. Load time matters. A study from Gomez found that 40 percent of consumers would abandon a mobile Web site if it takes more than three seconds to load.

In that same survey, 71 percent stated that they expect a mobile site to load as fast, if not faster, as on their home computer.

A lot of variables affect wireless connectivity and transfer speeds. Not all of them are under your control, so use technology solutions to optimize the parts you can.

Be sure your images and videos are right-sized including smaller files for smaller screens, minimize and send only relevant code, use caching and CDNs, and watch your performance statistics.

5. Path to more information. Your mobile visitors are your most driven users. They are actively seeking you out to connect and jumping through extra hoops to do so.

Give visitors a way to interact with you from your mobile site. This can be the ability to find directions to your store, to click-to-call or even to buy something, since 50 percent of searches lead to a purchase.

ONCE YOUR MOBILE site has been developed, you can leverage it as a key component of your communications strategy. Integrate it seamlessly with your existing voice, text and social outreach, use it to gain opt-ins for your mobile database or grab a piece of the mobile commerce pie.

Michael Scully is vice president of mobile product and strategy at SoundBite Communications, Arlington, VA. Reach him at

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