To establish a successful online business, you need to build a flexible mobile presence that focuses on UX – user experience.
By David Braue
You’ve followed conventional wisdom and invested thousands building a whiz-bang new mobile app. You’ve pushed it into the Apple App Store and Google Play, marketed it to your customer base and trained your staff for an influx of new business.
They may be waiting a while: statistically speaking, most of your customers won’t use your app. E-commerce consultancy Forrester Research recently suggested that the average smartphone owner uses just 26 apps in a typical month; tablet owners use a mere 14. Adjust’s Mobile Benchmarks Q1 2016 report found that just 14 per cent of Australian users are still using a new app one week after downloading it.
Users are bombarded with so many apps that it’s no wonder they’re being selective. For those who are mad about mobiles but don’t particularly care about your app, how do you set up the business to lure them and keep them coming back?
The key is to stop trying to squeeze your business into one app or website. Instead, focus on building a mobile-capable website that adapts to the device it’s being viewed on – and helps users quickly find the information and functions they need.
“Users are bombarded with so many apps that it’s no wonder they’re being selective.”
“Responsive retrofits to 20-year-old desktop web designs fail to serve us in our mobile moments of need,” Forrester noted in a September 2016 design analysis of mobile design strategies. “That’s a shame, because even with lousy sites, web traffic around the world will be majority mobile by 2019. eBusiness pros have a choice: hand your mobile moments over to a bunch of apps you don’t own, or do a radical reset of your mobile web strategy.”
Growing an online business
The radical reset
You’ve likely seen websites that just don’t work on smartphones: you find yourself squinting at a screen full of tiny text and minuscule links that require far too much pinching, zooming, swiping and cursing to be worth the effort. This is counterproductive – and unforgivable – since modern web browsers can readily identify mobile devices and present users with an alternative, stripped-down interface.
Wikipedia is a great example. Visit the page for Australia on your desktop, and the information is presented in three columns with long body text punctuated by subheadings. Visit the same link on your smartphone and key facts are presented in their own column, followed by the introduction and a collapsed list of subheadings. Tap a subheading to view that particular text and tap again to tuck it away once you’ve read it.
On mobiles, less is most definitely more – but far too many web designers get caught out trying to pack in too many bells and whistles. These may make for great boardroom presentations, but mobile users just want to get the job done.
“eBusiness pros have a choice: hand your mobile moments over to a bunch of apps you don’t own, or do a radical reset of your mobile web strategy.” Forrester Research
Meeting this need inevitably requires soul-searching to review the entire business from the customer’s perspective. Design professionals call this UX – user experience – and getting it right is critical to building a mobile-friendly website that customers will actually use.
“Everyone is a designer,” says Glyn Thomas, UX designer and team lead with NIB Health Funds, who notes the importance of engaging stakeholders, product owners and development teams – as well as business units such as legal and marketing – all the way through the mobile design process.
“When we start the process, we don’t know what the solution is going to look like, but we do know that the touchpoint at the end of the journey drives better business outcomes,” he says. “This takes surfacing new ideas, running user testing and cutting out other ideas.”
Business execution: crafting a business strategy that executes: create a strategy that's planned, integrated, measurable, and supportable.
It’s all about the UX
Ask every stakeholder what they want out of the mobile site and you’ll get a wish list as long as your arm.
First, you should do is isolate the most common transactions you process and make them mobile-friendly, to put big wins on the board and get users accustomed to using your site. You can always add more features later.
To speed up the user experience, your mobile app will need to interface directly with back-end systems, as well as potentially drawing on cloud services
- PayPal integration or other payment methods
- easy access to live chat
- interactive tools for comparison shopping within your online store
- access to unique accounts that let users sync information between devices
Whatever you add, make sure that it works seamlessly and that you haven’t allowed competing interests to overcomplicate the UX. Feed the site to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test for an objective read on your progress, and test each new design with as many users as you can. Use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to secure user data, in line with privacy and credit card regulations, on your back-end systems.
Ultimately, says Thomas, a successful mobile website is all about delivering an experience that will put a smile on the user’s face – and that requires you to understand the user’s goals and know the context of their visit.
“Consider a button on a page, a page in a user flow, a user flow on a site, a site in a customer journey,” he says. “Don’t design for the feature; design for the outcome.
“It takes collaboration, but this helps make sure designers hold themselves accountable for getting a smiley face from the user.”