7 Mobile Site and Application Design Tips

Interview with Kimber Johnson, Managing Director of Vanity Point, VanityPoint.com

iphone-devMobile Marketing this, and Mobile Marketing that, iPhone App this, and Android App that. You've heard all the hype right? So how do you boil it all down and get right to figuring out a) should you really make that investment and b) if so, how? Well, when I have a question like that I turn to my design go-to guy, Kimber Johnson for a bit of clarity. That's one of the things I've found to enjoy about working with Kimber, he keeps it simple. A 16 year interactive design professional Kimber helps us to fulfill the needs of our clients and here I ask him 7 straight forward design and build consideration questions. I hope you find his answers and insights as useful as I always do.

#1 - Why should one decide to create a mobile version of their existing website?

If we are just talking on just a statistical level, mobile is as least as important as your traditional web presence right now and soon will be more important. There are roughly a billion people accessing the Internet right now through mobile devices and there are about 1.2 billion PCs/laptops/tablets in the world. If you look at how rapidly mobile web access is growing each year, it is pretty obvious that a company’s mobile presence cannot be an afterthought any longer. There are over 5 billion accounts with carriers for mobile devices now and everyday devices that are enabled for mobile web access are taking over the mobile market. With smartphone sales growth numbers typically at well over 40% from year-to-year, it’s easy to see that in a short amount of time the mobile web experience will be the dominant format purely in terms of numbers.


"More then 1/2 of the 1 Billion Smartphone users say "Maps/Search" is the number one function they use their phone for." ~ According to Digital Buzz Blog

#2 - What considerations should one make when creating the mobile version of an existing website?

The primary items that I encourage clients to consider with mobile web sites, at least initially, are to keep in mind download times over the 3G/4G networks and how your visitors will be interacting with your site during a mobile experience. Accessing a site via a 3G network is much slower than the cable Internet that most of us enjoy at home or in the office, so you need to build sites that work well in the slower environment, it is similar to how we built web sites in the 18k dial-up modem days. With that being the case, it is wise to consider in what ways a user will want to interact with your business from a mobile site and focus on that. Consider only including the information that is relevant to a mobile experience. This not only keeps your site quick but provides a better user experience by cutting the clutter.

#3 - What types of web sites would be considered the ideal site for a mobile version build?

Typically those businesses that are in an industry where potential customers will want to interact with their web site while on the go are ideal candidates for mobile web sites. If your business offers automotive repair, for instance, or if you have a restaurant, you will find customers are regularly finding your web site via mobile devices if you have a decent position on Google and you will want to offer a quality user experience to those customers in order to be able to convert visitors into clients. Key here is to evaluate your business to see if it is the type of business that can leverage a mobile site. Beyond that, those businesses that choose to engage in optimizing for mobile will want to engage in search engine optimization to increase the numbers of visitors they see at their sites. Users searching the web on mobile devices are much less willing to go deep into Google listings and you will lose those opportunities for client acquisition.

#4 - So search engine optimization is important for the mobile web too?

Search engine optimization is imperative to businesses looking to grow via the mobile web. With download speeds being lower and the fact that users are often on the move, the opportunity to create a contact really only will happen if businesses are on the first page maybe two of Google’s rankings. There are several things about search engine optimization that are wonderful for business owners; first of all, it is typically very affordable. Second, it works for both mobile and traditional web sites at the same time, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Beyond that, and most importantly, it regularly has tremendous ROIs. Our SEO clients have seen incredible returns from small investments in search engine optimization. If you really want to get people to your site, I always recommend search engine optimization. A solid mobile web experience is how you convert the visitors on mobile phones into contacts, giving you potential clients.

Quick Fact: In all of our various Google Analytics reports, the Android and iPhone Operating Systems consistently ranks in the top three of the "Operating System" criteria.


A weeks stats from a very niche social networking site

#5 - Are there any types of sites or companies that should not bother going mobile?

There are several clients that I recommend mobile applications to over mobile sites. Typically mobile sites are effective for businesses that are in industries where people search for them on the go, but if you are looking to create regular ongoing contacts with your client base, mobile applications are always better. Mobile apps are easier and quicker to access and are a great way to make it very easy for consumers to interact with your business on a regular basis.

#6 - For companies that don't want to create a mobile version of their existing web site, are there still opportunities for them to take advantage of the growth in the mobile sector?

There are a great number of opportunities to advertise a business in the mobile arena. Typically these see very nice returns on their investment. This is for two reasons, first mobile is new, users are not as used to formats and layout so they ads stand out and get attention much better than with traditional or online advertising. We see very nice click rates with mobile advertising and I think that is part of what is driving the meteoric growth of mobile advertising. The other factor is the careful targeting apps allow. With a little homework, it is easy to find a mobile app that caters to your target market very tightly and advertise right to the people who you want to see your ad. For years I have promoted tightly targeted advertising to maximize the efficiency of ad budgets and mobile is taking that to another level. This is very good news for small businesses that have smaller advertising budgets; they will certainly get a lot more out of those budgets right now.

#7 - What mistakes should companies look to avoid when designing a mobile application?

The biggest one I see is that some people try to do too much with their mobile applications. Mobile applications always work best when they are carefully designed around a specific purpose and they make it easy to accomplish that purpose. Users that access media via mobile are likely to read less on mobile devices and have less patience for poor user experiences, therefore it is crucial to make it easy to do what they are there to do and create an environment where they can do that one thing well. Cut the rest out. Don’t try to add in an accounting package just because you think they may want to keep track of that while using your app. They won’t. They have Quick Books or an accountant for that. Focus your app and make it easy to use.

Now, your feedback.

Have you been considering taking your business mobile? Have you already gone mobile, what lessons have you learned? 

Here's one that we're publishing for Culinary Students and Home Chefs to make cooking measurements easier, in conjunction with a good chef friend of ours. The main learning we're taking away from this is how to market a new mobile app. We'll share some of those lessons soon too.

More info on this project at: www.thekitchenconverterapp.com



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