Why Mobile Site Optimization Matters—6 Best Practices for Mobile Design

Posted by on Feb 17, 2012 in Articles | One Comment

The growing popularity of smartphones has sparked a dramatic increase in mobile search traffic over the past three years. As of the third quarter of 2011, the Nielsen Company reports that 43% of US mobile users own a smartphone, representing a 15% increase year-over-year from October 2010 to October 2011. Thanks to this spike in smartphone proliferation, mobile searches have quadrupled since 2010. To date, Google search clicks from mobile devices represent 14.2% of all search clicks, according to Performics.

Despite the staggering growth in the mobile marketplace, the majority of marketers have been slow to develop mobile optimized sites and landing pages, an oversight that could adversely affect your site’s traffic. According to Google, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a website where they had a bad mobile experience. As an incentive for marketers to improve their site’s mobile experience, Google recently announced mobile website optimization as ranking factor in mobile paid search. Strategically creating a positive mobile web experience can significantly impact ROI. Research from Google found that 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase online, in-store, or on their phones as a result of smartphone shopping research. What’s more, 88% of smartphone users looking for location information on their smartphones take action within a day. Providing a quality mobile site experience encourages users to connect with your services and drives conversions. 

Let’s take a closer look at 6 best practices for providing your customers a positive mobile site experience:
1. Keep it Clear and Concise- We know that users don’t read content word-for-word, they scan it. That is even more the case with mobile users; by definition they are on-the-go, multitasking, scanning and seeking information quickly. It’s imperative to develop your mobile site with scanning and usability in mind.

• A simple rule of thumb is to keep the design simple, use graphics sparingly and make the conversion points easy and obvious.

2. Call to Action- Regardless what your desired conversion metric is, your clients need to be able to do it quickly and conveniently.

• The copy should be placed above the fold and should be brief and concise (no more than 25 characters if possible).
• It should be direct to have the most impact and brief to maximize screen real estate.
• Keep in mind that the user is mobile, so use relevant, location-based offers to your advantage (mobile CTAs, click-to-call, map, etc.).
• Include a product image or “hero shot” to grab users attention. Tests have shown that pages with images receive higher click-through rates.

3. Usability is Key- Forget that “pinch and zoom” exists. Make clickable elements big enough for a user to ‘click’ using just a fingertip. (Apple’s iPhone interface uses buttons with a height of 44 pixels or .3 inches).

• If you use icons, be sure to use universal and intuitive symbols. Otherwise you risk confusing the visitor and losing the conversion.
• Don’t use flash. It’s not supported by all platforms and animations are usually slow to download.
• Provide a link to the desktop web page.
4. Use a Fluid Layout- Design with flexibility in mind, as screen sizes and resolutions vary.

• Use a fluid, single-column design, with a 320 pixel minimum width. Put the most prominent information at the top of the page. Do not use horizontal scrolling.
• Leverage vector shapes that scale and graphics that can adapt to large and small screens alike.
• Use coding techniques to render graphics where possible to minimize page load time.
Here are a few good mobile layouts:

• Flawless brand cohesion and fluid layout.
• Clear messaging.
• Obvious primary and secondary conversion points.

• Good brand cohesion.
• Clear navigation.
• Lacks a clear call to action.

• Good brand cohesion.
• A fluid layout, well executed.
• Intuitive iconic navigation with clarifying text.
• A click to call option would raise conversions.

5. SEO Matters – As search engine use is commonplace on mobile devices, SEO practices for mobile should align with a brand’s traditional SEO practices. In this respect, use mobile web safe fonts that load perfectly across all mobile devices. Until there is a clear solution to compatibility of system fonts across devices, your best bet is to stick to the following fonts:

• Arial/Helvetica
• Courier/Courier New
• Georgia
• Times/Times New Roman
• Trebuchet MS
• Verdana

6. Always be Testing- Test your page across mobile devices. Ensure your text displays at a legible size, images load quickly and functionality works properly.