Optimising mobile: tips and insights for mobile optimisation

Ryan Sackett, consultant at Precedent, writes on the concepts presented in Precedent’s latest industry whitepaper, Optimising Mobile, providing a glimpse at the various approaches, from mobi sites and responsive solutions to framework apps and native apps.

There’s no getting away from the feeling that we’ve been talking about mobile for a long time. But where many trends come and go, as a glance at Gartner’s Hype Cycle will tell you, mobile’s ability to stay front of mind in the thoughts of digital professionals provides the proof of the pudding as to its longevity. Disruptive, challenging and packed with opportunity, we love mobile. The idea of a channel that enables our brands to fully engage with its audiences through that most personal and cherished of devices gets us excited.A year ago, mobile was developing at a pace; devices were getting more sophisticated and tablets were becoming mainstream. The stabilising effect of increased capability across the market has seen businesses exploring their use of the channel as a means to deliver services and engage with consumers in new and innovative ways. The knock on effect of this is that today’s consumer has a multi-channel experience and a subconscious expectation for things to be seamless, irrespective of the device they happen to be using as the time.Where, very recently, we said mobile needed consideration, the message now is that mobile should be integrated with other channels as well as being optimised in its own right.What are my options?Perhaps you have a mobile friendly version of your website already, maybe you’re considering an app? The solutions are worth exploring because it’s important to have a clear understanding of what’s at your disposal so you make an informed choice that fits with your business objectives and your users. The table below presents a high level summary of the potential solutions assessed against key criteria:
  • User experience: how does the solution look, feel and perform from a user’s perspective?
  • Required effort: what will it take to create the solution and what are the key development considerations?
  • Capabilities: which features are available for the solution and what can be made use of?
  • Devices: which solutions align to what mobile devices?
So what’s the optimum approach?Depending on what you want to achieve, one or more approach may be the solution for you, so let’s look at the solutions in a more detail.MobiDesigned specifically for the mobile browser, mobis are extremely versatile and you’ve probably used many already in your life as mobile user. Mobi sites have evolved to become the most common mobile solution for many businesses. Their success is down to the relative ease of design and development, which typically come with the aim of being lightweight and focused. ResponsiveDesigned to work across multiple devices, a responsive solution enables you to have the same site, just considered and flowed to be at its best across a set of devices (each with their own screen size, browser and method of interaction). Typical devices will be desktop (or laptop), tablet (iPad) and mobile smartphones (iPhone, Android etc.).Framework AppEnabling an app to be developed once and deployed across multiple devices and operating systems, a framework could be used across, for example, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and BlackBerry. Native AppProbably the most typical mobile experience that people refer to when they talk about their mobile phone, native apps open the door to the winning formula of ideas well executed, delivered elegantly, making use of the native capabilities of the device. This of course, comes at a cost. Native apps are the most costly to produce because a tailored solution is required for each operating system.Can I re-use my existing content? As we’ve shown in the table, there are a number of solutions available when you are considering your mobile approach. Whether it’s reach or richness you crave, one aspect can make or break a digital experience, and that is content. Critical to achieving your goals and delighting your users, content is the key consideration irrespective of the path you choose to take. There is no getting away from the fact that digital experiences are infinitely improved by some considered thought around content. So, how do you optimise your content for mobile? Well, you probably already have one (or several) websites, whether corporate, microsite, campaign or product-led. It’s these spaces that provide a base from which to review your content for the mobile context your:
  • User experience
  • Layouts
  • Navigation
  • Image and text content
Applying your desktop elements to the mobile mindset (using the list above) will help you see what works and what doesn’t. Not only does this test help you see where the issues are, it also helps inform the decisions you will make further down the line in your content plans and strategy. Of course, there are times where a mobile project is considered from the ground up – meaning you are in the fortunate position of being able to consider new techniques, approaches and, crucially, custom content. There’s no doubt mobile requires a different way of thinking, but a design process can begin by reviewing your existing assets and getting the additional benefit of seeing why what you have already can’t just be shrunk down to fit. Making it happenWe’ve outlined the solutions available and explored how you can get your content mobile ready. Now it’s time to outline some guiding principles that will keep you on the right track to ensure you create something that is memorable and that delivers results.Make your content clear and goal focused
  • Say less: think goals and user journeys. Get the user to where they need to be as efficiently as possible. Reduce content and make calls to action more prominent.
  • Say it better: don’t repeat yourself, just be more meaningful. Make your content engaging, key word rich and, crucially, make it complement your navigation.
  • Say it earlier: bring the valuable content upwards. Content can and should aid discovery and support user actions.
  • Consider your images: performance is key but that doesn’t mean foregoing images. There are some great examples out there, such as Flipboard that use images extensively. Your choice of solution will immediately give you an idea of its suitability for image use and what you need to consider.
Think data. And keep thinking data.Simply put, the best data for mobile is the most streamlined. It is easy to overlook the fact that your users may not be on a WiFi connection, but remember that they will still expect their content to be delivered quickly. Get best results by:
  • Ensuring the existing web Application Programming Interface (API) does not bundle unnecessary data with requests for data
  • Expanding your API to deal with short, quick requests and connect it to your Content Management Solution as soon as you can
  • Using mobile optimisation and analytics tools see where your delivery speeds can be improved
  • Tracking users in your app through an analytics tool
Manage your resources effectivelyIf you run more channels you will need more resources, as well as an increasingly robust process for managing everything from start to finish. It’s all too easy to end up with digital bloat. Review regularly to make sure your channels are delivering against your objectives. Think of your landscape like a portfolio, based upon results, and adjust your efforts and energies accordingly.The skill sets required for mobile are not unique but are an extension of a web developer’s knowledge, but an understanding of mobile design and the context of use is invaluable.Final thoughtsAs said at the beginning, the disruptive nature of mobile means that space for innovation is always being created and new opportunities revealing themselves, but delivery of a truly memorable experience that delivers business results comes about from resolving key challenges too. Give yourself adequate time to understand how mobile can be integrated to add value to your customer journeys; evaluate and choose your solution then start planning for launch. And don’t forget about scanning the horizon. Keeping track of the latest developments and understanding mobile user trends will mean you’re informed about what can make a difference to your customers and, in turn, your business. Precedent’s latest whitepaper, Optimising Mobile, was recently published. You can request your free copy which examines this topic in much more detail vie the Precedent website or by email.Smartphone image via Shutterstock

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.