My Customer: The nuts and bolts of building a successful mobile site

December 29, 2014

Mobile websites are the storefronts, handshake and hello of the modern world. They are the first impression a customer has of a business. If a site is drab, uninspiring or poorly designed, potential customers are going to have that view of your company.

On the other hand, if it is vivid, engaging and aesthetically pleasing, those same people will transfer those positive impressions onto your organisation.

User experience (UX)  is the critical differentiator when crafting mobile sites. It allows brands to build a relationship with consumers and deliver the content and capabilities needed to complete tasks efficiently. Given the importance of mobile sites, due to the increased levels of mobile traffic and spend, how can brands build mobile sites that drive revenue and build stronger customer relationships?

Comprehending context

The proliferation of mobile devices means context is incredibly important when attempting to understand mobile and multichannel stores. This means understanding the who, what, when, where and why of people accessing the mobile store.

People are now accessing information from a multitude of devices, jumping from screen to screen, and they want this experience to be seamless. Good UX should be invisible to the user, satisfying their needs without them knowing; even if the explosion of mobile technology is making the context challenge ever harder.  

When building your mobile site, recognising passage of usage is critical. This can come in a variety of forms, including using different devices simultaneously, continuing a journey across them or beaming a display onto another display. In order for this to be implemented on a mobile site successfully, designers need to consider the contextual path of the user’s journey, which is not a simple science.

During the design process of a mobile site, it’s vital to remember that “the medium is the message.” In other words, how the content is carried plays a vital role in how a mobile site’s message is received. This is especially interesting with the range of new wearable technology being released, such as Google Glass, and this is going to shape contextual design to come.

Simply simplicity

The availability and amount of technology in our lives has exploded and we now live in an “always on” environment. A study by Nokia in 2013 showed that an individual looks at their smartphone over 150 times a day, while recent research revealed that the first thing the majority of 18-44 year olds look at when they wake up is their phone.

With all this noise in both technology and everyday life, it is vital that when mobile sites are designed there is order and sanity in the interface. Businesses across the world are realising the importance of stripping back the unnecessary. Consider recent developments in graphic design by companies like Apple. Its latest update to iOS championed “flat design”, with superfluous embellishments being removed to improve usability and satisfaction.

John Maeda, the graphic designer and computer scientist, said that “simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful”. This means it’s not about simplifying for the sake of it, it’s about going through processes to ensure nothing needed is lost. Business and a mobile store can suffer if a customer’s choice is saturated, as this increases decision making time, when the experience should be seamless.

Design is about curating an experienc ands ensuring people aren’t bombarded with choice, but instead guided gently around your mobile site.

Keeping it consistent

It can be very difficult to present a wholly unified storefront across multiple channels. A key in achieving this is going through a best practice checklist to ensure everything is consistent. This varies from language, tone and quality, all the way through to treatment and placement of visual items on a site.

The reason for this is simple: users simply don’t like inconsistency. They expect a sense of unity from a brand and, when this is lacking, it erodes their faith in the product and experience. Effectively, a lack of UX consistency adds to a cognitive load, making the brain work harder than it should have to which leads to a negative customer experience.

If users don’t have to relearn controls or interact with the site in a different way across channels they will have a much more positive experience.

Aesthetic integrity

This is all about making a site look good. First impressions are vital, as people really do judge a book by its cover. If they enter a mobile site and it’s poorly formatted, they are going to associate the site with a sense of shoddiness. In the early days of the internet, mobile sites were very much about functionality, but user expectations in today’s market are on a different level.

Achieving this involves following the basic principles of imagery design, including contrast, location, size and colour. What constitutes a successful design is open to trends and personal opinion, but that doesn’t make it something that should be disregarded for functionality. The key is a balance.

Good design should reflect both the brand and intention of the product, yet shouldn’t occur at the expense of functionality. This type of design delivers a positive emotional response from users, making them more likely to return to the site and purchase a product.

Taking the time

UX is the conduit between the consumer and company. It impacts and influences every interaction a user has with your brand or product. With the internet and technology industry moving at a lightning-fast rate, businesses need to be there for their customers, across every channel and across every device. Mobile should lead the way in keeping you at the top of the tree and, focusing on the four aforementioned areas, context, simplicity, consistency and aesthetics, will allow you to not only stay up-to-date with the industry, but lead the way in the future.

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