October 27, 2008
Do We Really Need a Mobile Web Site?
Per Holmkvist, Managing Director, Mobiento
The simple answer to the above question is yes. Most of your customers have a mobile phone, right? If you want to control how your brand appears in there, you must take action. There are several reasons. Of course the layout adaption to all mobile phone models is an important aspect, but it is equally important to offer a user friendly mobile site that is fast and inexpensive to load. The most important aspect however is the content and how it is presented. The needs and behaviour of a mobile surfer differs greatly from an Internet surfer.
Your web site is your Supermarket, and your mobile site is your 7-Eleven
The most important and most sustainable reason for maintaining a mobile web site is that it plays a different role in your communication than does the traditional web. According to Nielsen Net Ratings the average Internet session in 2007 lasted for 56 minutes. The average mobile surf session is less than five minutes. The mobile surfer is seldom just ‘surfing around’, he has a specific goal with his visit; to find a piece of information, to download a mobile service, or maybe visit his favourite brand.
Hence the mobile web site must cut to the chase, and must only present content that is relevant for the mobile surfer. Part of that content may be the same as for the web, but parts are mobile specific. The contents must also be presented in the right order for a mobile surfer. Information that is on level three in an Internet web tree, may be on level one in the mobile.
We see the Internet site much like a supermarket. There are many different ways to go from the entry to the cashier, and the range of goods is wide. There are several brands of shampoo, and they come in different types, prices and sizes. The mobile site on the other hand, is like a 7-Eleven. There is pretty much only one way between entry and exit, and most choices are already made for you. And there is often only one shampoo brand.
Show the right stuff in the right order
Another reason for having a mobile web site is that the content presentation itself should be mobile adapted. We believe in a less-is-more design philosophy for mobile web sites. Single out the three most important reasons to visit your mobile site, and make them visible at entry, without any down-scrolling. A small screen does not mean design is not important, on the contrary interaction and graphic design for mobile is the ultimate test for a designer.
Also, a good mobile site requires no side-scrolling, and hence it is always read top-down, as opposed to Internet sites where eye-movement studies show that the eye moves freely over the screen. This should dictate the mobile layout. Some texts may be the same as for the Internet, but again a mobile surf session is short, so distilled shorter texts are often better. See them as a teaser, for those who want to read more can later sit down by their computer and read the long version.
Images may also need to be mobile specific. We are not talking about the image sizes - that is a technical issue - but image motives. What works well on a pc screen does not necessarily look good in a mobile. A landscape photo with a car in a distance is just a landscape photo in the mobile. No one will ever see the car.
Re-using Internet texts and images for your mobile web may be a temporary solution, but when doing so it is easy to forget features that are not on your web site. Mobile specific texts, features, and )maybe most importantly) mobile revenue possibilities.
There are thousands of mobile phone models
Finally, there is of course a technical argument for a mobile web site. A common question when discussing mobile web sites is “Won’t fixed and mobile internet converge?” Yes, we can already browse the traditional web using an iPhone or other smart phone )although Flash based sites still do not work). And yes, mobile and fixed Internet will converge eventually, but still - not everyone will have iPhones and its likes. Many people go for small simple phones, and will continue to do so.
The problem is that consumers will be looking for your brand in their mobile, regardless if you have a mobile web site or not. In the best case it looks awful, and the customer has a flat fee data plan so he doesn’t have to pay a lot to load the site. Worst case, your brand is perceived as disregarding its customers.
What does this mean? You should adapt your web site for these phones. Hundreds of phones of different brands and models. This requires a phone recognition software, which automatically creates the mobile web site layout and contents depending on which phone the visitor has.
The “weight” of the web page is also an important part of the adaptation. Opening a traditional web site in a mobile phone can be painfully slow, and may cost several Euros in data traffic fees. A first page on any web site may weigh one thousand kilobytes. A first page on a mobile web site should weigh less than a tenth of that.
What if we still do not want a mobile web site?
The important thing is to know what you are saying no to. If your customer opens your web site in a mobile browser he gets the wrong content, presented in the wrong order, with a slow and costly download, and with an unadapted layout. In a world where most everyone owns a mobile phone and brand perception and brand liking is everything, this could be a problem.