As smartphones and tablets become more common, marketers know a mobile-optimized website is key to reaching customers. But according to recent research from Google, businesses without a well-designed mobile website may be driving away customers with whom they currently do business.
Among the smartphone users surveyed, 50% said they’ll use a business less often if it doesn’t have a mobile-friendly site – even if they like that business. In addition, 48% said that if a website doesn’t work well on their mobile device, they feel like the company doesn’t care about winning their business.
What makes a bad mobile site that drives customers away? Marketing experts warn companies to avoid these common mobile website mistakes:
1. Lack of an easy-to-find search function
One of the most important functions of a mobile site is to steer viewers toward the information they want as quickly as possible. In Google’s survey, 61% of smartphone users said if they didn’t see what they needed right away, they would move on to a different site. A key way to avoid that is to offer a search field front-and-center.
2. Tiny buttons and links
Too often, mobile websites are just scaled-down versions of the full desktop site. That can cause several problems, including making it difficult for mobile viewers to click on buttons or links. How big should those items be to remain finger-friendly? Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines recommend a minimum of 44 x 44 pixels.
3. Too much information
Company websites typically feature a lot of content. In addition to information for potential customers, the full site may include company blogs, a section for job seekers, etc. But for a mobile site, many experts recommend removing all the content that isn’t directly relevant to helping customers make purchases.
4. Too many requests for input
While reading information is comfortable on a mobile device, entering data is much more difficult on a small screen and without a keyboard. Mobile Web designers should keep forms, comment boxes, and other elements that require typing to a minimum.
5. Failure to exploit devices’ features
While many items should be stripped away when creating a mobile website, many companies fail to add features that take advantage of smartphones’ functionality. Items to consider include links to make phone calls, location-specific offers and instructions, and links to audio, video, or other media content.
6. One-size-fits-all mobile sites
Mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes, and a site that looks good on a 3.5-inch iPhone won’t necessarily look good on a 4.7-inch Android device – and it likely won’t offer a good browsing experience on a tablet. Businesses should test their sites on a variety of gadgets, and consider different sites designed for specific devices.
7. Not setting a home screen icon
One goal of any website is to get visitors to keep coming back. One way to do that is to create an eye-catching icon so users can add a shortcut to the site on their device’s home screen. If no icon is set, the default – a scaled down screen cap of the homepage – should be used.
Key elements of a mobile website
Just as a sub-par mobile site drives away viewers and customers, an optimal design increases business. In Google’s survey, 67% of smartphone users said a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a product or service.
In addition to avoiding the mistakes above, experts say these are some of the critical elements of mobile-optimized websites:
- Fast load times – Include only images that are relevant and impact customers’ buying decisions.
- Simple architecture – Limit choices to help keep visitors from getting lost.
- Optimization of screen real estate – For example, collapsible menus can incorporate a lot of links in a minimal amount of space.
- An option to view the desktop version – Give intrepid mobile browsers an easy way to switch to the full site.
- A focus on what mobile browsers want the most – For many businesses, mobile visitors have a different goal than people using a desktop. It’s critical to find out what that goal is and make that the focus of the mobile site.
- Relevant images that influence buying decisions only
About the Author
Technology Editor for IT Manager Daily, published by Progressive Business Publications, Sam Narisi covers technology’s ever-changing impact on business. Connect with Progressive Business on LinkedIn or read company reviews on Glassdoor.