All of us know that smartphones have had a huge growth over the last 5 years and according to the mobiThinking report, published on February 2013, “At the end of 2012, there were 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions all around the world with 694 million smartphones shipped to the users.” This report also predicts 37% increase of Tablet shipping by 2016 and 17% for Smartphones.
Comparing to the global figures, based on eStat numbers, while still in Australia desktop owns around 84% of the visits, mobile shows a growth of 5% since July 2012 and Android & iPhone smartphones are far ahead of their competitors with 24.71% and 61.84%, respectively.
In my opinion, these numbers talk and they play a big role in outlining the digital strategy for a business, if they are looked out more precisely. Two years ago presence on the mobile was an advantage; today it is a must for every business. Why? Because almost everyone has a mobile: It is easy to access, has data connection and it is more convenient to be used on the go.
But as smartphones don’t provide the same usual 14” or 15” desktop screen sizes, Web sites which are not optimized for narrower screens will act as an enemy and may lead to lose the visitor over the time as they are not easy to browse.
Since 2009, I have done many mobile sites and found it very hard to outline specific standards for the features, because every business has its own UI standards. However there are pretty much basic rules that every mobile site must have, otherwise the site won’t give the effective results as expected. Below is the list of these features sorted by their importance?
- Easy Navigation & large buttons: It must be easy to navigate through the site pages or elements on a page. If low-end devices or featured phones are supported then it is important to make sure keyboard navigation is working smoothly. Not all users have skinny fingers! Make sure links, buttons are sitting with enough gaps to next clickable element, to avoid accidental clicks. Buttons should be large enough to be clicked easily (even for ladies with long nails!). For any single page there should be a way to navigate to other pages or at least to the homepage.
- lightweight pages: Telstra announced in July 2013, that by Christmas, they will expand their 4G networks to cover more than 85% of Australian population. While that can put an end to the low-speed 3G Internets, not all devices are supporting 4G networks and it is essential for the mobile sites to run smoothly on slower networks. Images & graphics must be optimized for the mobile sites and other mechanism such as caching or Ajax must be used to avoid unnecessary page reloading and only load the chunk of data which is requested.
- Social Media Integration: Users may want to share their experience on your site with their friends, if they find the contents useful enough. Social sharing buttons must be available in both site-level and content-level. Also, buttons “Facebook Like” or Google “+1″, help your brand by increasing web site visibility, and so affect the ranking in search engines by bringing more traffic to the site.
- Device Detection: Not all devices give the same experience to the user on your mobile site. Featured Phones like Nokia E62 or and old Black berry, they all have different browsers and so they interpret the styles and html tags, differently. If all devices are targeted, then it is important to have device detection mechanism to display enhanced rendition – sometimes only texts – for each device.
- Click-to-Call: The first intention of having a mobile is making calls! And it is a must for the site to give the user this option to directly call by clicking on a link or button instead of having to copy the contact number and paste it to the dialler (some old devices even does not support copy/past feature!). Make sure it is available through the whole site via a button labelled properly like “CALL US”.
- Link to the desktop web site: Some users prefer to see the desktop version of the mobile sites, especially if the mobile site is serving different content types and doesn’t display all features for mobile users. In this case, a link – which is usually placed at the bottom the page, is designed to bypass the device detection and display the main web site. Needless to mention that this is part of SEO and increase the readability for search engine crawlers.
- “Back to top” link: Narrow screens force the elements on the page to be stacked on top of each other and so scrolling is required to get to the bottom of the page. It is easy for touch screen devices to scroll however using keyboard, it is annoying. Usually a shortcut at the site footer is required to jump to the top of the page.
- Contact Info: if you have a physical address on map, then you can use the Google map or any other integrated map application installed on the device, to simply redirect the user the map. Sending email from the mobile site, for general purpose enquiries must be also accessible from all pages.
Although, the above list is a standard and can be applied to any type of mobile sites, there are scenarios which unique ideas replace the common practices and make something different than the normal sites. Each business has different sort of users and it is important to bring their special considerations into the account to give them the feeling that the web site is the right place for them to be.