Posted: June 27, 2012
Most of us know by now how important mobile technologies are to our marketing efforts. But in case you haven’t kept up, here are a few recent stats:
- Nearly half (46 percent) of American adults are smartphone owners as of February 2012
- Some say mobile web could eclipse desktop usage by 2014
- Thirty-eight percent of college students cannot go 10 minutes without checking their email, tablet, laptop or smartphone
The question now is not whether you need a mobile marketing strategy but what your mobile marketing strategy is going to be.
But what does that mean: a ‘mobile web presence strategy’? It’s no longer enough to design and code your site for a mobile device so that it shows up as a smaller version of your desktop site. Due to the variety of devices, platforms and ways of accessing the web, a few generally unanswered but critical questions loom for strategists and developers alike:
What does ‘mobile’ mean to you and your target audience?
The future of the Internet looks mobile. Screens are smaller, users are moving targets and audiences will be segmented more than ever as they search for content specifically created for them.
We’re talking about anything and everything that users take on the go. This includes Kindles, iPads and the growing list of smartphones and other devices that hit a market full of eager consumers almost everyday. We can’t say exactly what’s coming next, but given what the industry knows now, you have to provide a clean, fast and attractive way for users to connect with your organization on the go.
Do your mobile users want to see the same content that exists on your desktop site or do they need an abridged version?
Some say that there should be a completely different set of content on a mobile site or application versus the normal website. Others insist that the two ways of interacting with your brand online shouldn't be different.
We typically recommend that our clients make the exact same content available on their desktop and mobile platforms. If content is going to be accessible via a mobile device, it should also be available on a desktop and vis versa.
Mobile users are more likely to be interested in the practical, actionable and functional information that they need. They're less likely to be doing in-depth research and probably don’t care to read qualitative, descriptive information. On the go users are looking for the information like phone numbers, directions, maps and operating hours.
âI believe users should find the same content on any platform,â VisionPoint Web Developer Erik Olson said. âIt should all be there, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same place.â
With technology and content management systems the way they are, you should have a full version of your website on mobile devices unless you have a very compelling reason to do otherwise. Some exceptions might include having a CMS that doesn’t support mobile integration, or if you think that your users will need a different set of information when they’re away from a desktop computer.
What type of functionality is appropriate for your mobile presence?
Marketers have a growing arsenal of cutting edge tools at their disposal, but knowing when and how to deploy them can be tricky. Allowing users to take advantage of their device’s tech features is a great way to engage users and provide them with the experience they're looking for.
But understanding your audience is key here, as you have to decide whether or not to leverage location services that are unique to mobile devices or if you should just make a copy of your desktop site that happens to look good on a mobile device (a mobile website).
If your organization's end product is users’ experience on a mobile device, like in the case of companies that develop games, weather maps or other news products, a downloadable app may very well be your best choice. For the rest of us, a good mobile site built for the needs of the user will serve you better in the long run, and you won’t have to wait for the long approval process to get an app into Apple's store or the Android market.
A mobile site is also universally accessible. It is costly and impractical for any but the largest and most well-funded organizations to develop apps for the Apple's iOS, Google's Android operating system, Windows phones and whatever else comes next.
âThe web is a neutral platform that everyone supports,â Erik said. âMarketers' ability to utilize technologies like HTML 5 and CSS 3 make the Internet an increasingly powerful platform on which to develop.â
Instead of building apps that must be created for varying mobile operating systems, you can build one site that works on every platform.
Should I design unique treatments of my website that are specifically tailored for certain devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, tablet, etc.) or do I develop my site using *responsive (or adaptive) design*, allowing it to adapt to any screen it might find itself displayed on?
The trend right now is in responsive design. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's essentially a way to code a site once, but provide a different user experience for any platform. The design is dependent on the size of the screen, browser and orientation. VisionPoint is currently redesigning our own site using a responsive design! We'll be sure to let you know when it's ready. Sites designed with this savvy technique are versatile and take the guessing out of your users’ device.
If I go the responsive design route, how will this affect my design and development process? What do I need to do differently or learn in order to do this?
Especially in the case of responsive design, there are a number of adjustments you'll need to make to your design and development process. The most obvious being how to code for mobile devices. But just as important are considerations regarding content development (do you display abridged versions of your content?), design (the web presence should not just look like a smaller version of the desktop site), and information architecture.
Information architecture (IA) is all about content organization, categorization and hierarchy. On a mobile devices, the more important content items might be things like access to maps, contact info, and anything else that an on-the-go user might need quick access to. These elements should take priority in respect to their position on the screen and importance to the user. Meanwhile, on a desktop site, those items won’t have the same level of prominence in the IA.
Business goals drive design and technology decisions
The best advice we can offer you is to stay focused on your business goals. Regardless of what you choose to do from a technology perspective, make sure that your business goals and marketing strategies are driving your decisions. Ultimately, these technologies are tools and platforms that will help you to attract qualified students, make sales or simply communicate your message.