5 Ways to Improve Website Usability on a Mobile Device

As a seasoned marketer that has written many pages of copy for websites, it is refreshing to now see a new trend now underway. There was a time not too long ago when a website’s content layout could simply be maximized for viewing by ensuring it worked on Internet Explorer, or “IE”. The early days of Firefox were sometimes challenging when image displays or text wrapping would not work quite right … but, it didn’t really matter too much if only 2-3 percent of your audience were using that browser.

Today’s web browsing market is highly fragmented, a condition further exasperated with the proliferation of mobile “smart” devices. The dominance of IE is now gone (see: The End of an Era: Internet Explorer Drops Below 50 Percent of Web Usage). While desktop browsing is still the dominant format, mobile browsing has grown significantly, from virtually nothing three years ago to nearly six percent today.

So, what does this new evolving social behavior have to do with your business? Here are five considerations to evaluate:

  1. How important is your website for lead generation? If this attribute is key, then how “user friendly” is your site? For example, how well can you actually read the content? How many images to you have on each page, which thereby forces the phone to auto size your text to be way too small? Is your competitor’s site more “mobile-friendly”?
  2. How well does your website display on Safari, Android or Opera? These three operating systems comprise 94 percent of all mobile browsing activity. Given Apple’s current market share leadership for this segment (62 percent), it might be a problem if your site has issues with how it is displayed in this browser’s application. For example, is Flash on your site? Flash doesn’t work on an iPhone or iPad, so forget about a user being able to read or engage with this content.
  3. How fast does your website load on a mobile device? This is critical for mobile viewers, as they might be trying to multi-task with another activity while searching your site, such as waiting in line to see a movie, pumping gas, etc. This type of “burst” web viewing has a low threshold for delays when accessing web pages; they will simply turn off the browser or move on to another activity that can be completed quickly.
  4. If your “call to action” necessitates providing info, how streamlined is it? For example, if you are promoting registration for webinar or event, how many fields do you require to be completed? Anything more than 2 or 3 will start to push the limits of what can be accomplished on a mobile device, despite how well skilled your prospect is at typing on their smart phone.
  5. How quickly can information be found on your site? What extent do menu hierarchies play as part of your website’s navigation structure? Whereas a desktop-based viewer has a mouse that can be easily used to track through several tiers of menu choices with a single click, this type of navigation simply isn’t possible from a mobile device.

As a general comment, how often do you check how your website appears on an iPhone, iPad or an Android OS device? If you only own a Blackberry, how informed a decision can you really make, given Blackberry’s meager 2 percent market share within the mobile web viewing market?

Fortunately, options exist to address these challenges. First, it is possible to build a mobile website without destroying your existing site. The use of a .mobi extension can make this possible; viewers can then see a version of your website that has been optimized for mobile viewing. And, if you are really serious, then an App for mobile devices might start to make sense, as it really does offer a much better interactivity experience than trying to simply find information on the web.

What other suggestions do you have on how to better design website for mobile usage? I would be interested to hear your feedback.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

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Gordon Benzie

Gordon Benzie is a marketing and communications leader that is passionate about protecting brands, generating demand and elevating the reputations of technology companies.

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