Expert Tips for Building a Better Mobile Website
A few months back, Google launched GoMo, a new initiative designed to help small businesses build mobile-optimized websites that load quickly and function seamlessly across smartphones, with no pinching and zooming required.
The centerpiece of the GoMo effort is the GoMoMeter, an online test tool that identifies how your company’s existing site renders on a mobile browser, complete with usability score between zero and 100, along with suggestions for improving that number. Users enter the site’s URL, and the GoMoMeter device emulator depicts the page as a mobile consumer sees it on a phone, highlighting common missteps like microscopic images and text, snail-paced loading times, and buttons and links ill-equipped for touchscreen-enabled access.
Cloud testing and monitoring firm Keynote Systems’ Mobile Internet Testing Environment (a.k.a. MITE) powers the GoMoMeter. MITE leverages more than 4,000 measurement computers and mobile devices across 275 locations worldwide to provide on-demand performance monitoring for thousands of enterprise web and mobile sites.
“Small businesses are still struggling to go mobile,” says Keynote senior product manager Nisheeth Mohan. “It’s not a simple transition. People think they can just repurpose their existing site for mobile, and that’s not correct. You need to optimize the user experience and optimize the site. Navigation is a problem—you click on one link, and because of fat fingers, you end up clicking on another instead.”
Interacting with customers via the mobile channel is about more than making sure your site is smartphone-ready, Mohan says—it’s also about understanding the differences between the desktop and mobile experience.
“Users have a different context on mobile,” he explains. “If you’re searching for a movie on mobile, you’re probably looking for something that’s close by. If you’re searching for a movie on the desktop, you’re probably looking for trailers.”
While mobile consumers may have certain demands and expectations from small business websites, it’s also imperative that business owners are clear about what services and capabilities the site delivers.
“What do you want users to do?” Mohan says. “If you’re offering products for sale, you want users to be able to see what merchandise is available in your store. Users commonly want to read reviews. You have to make sure that content isn’t too big or too small. Another common feature is support for geo-location, like tools for finding the nearest location and mapping directions.”
But the biggest challenge facing businesses going mobile is the vast number of rival devices in the marketplace—a website won’t look and behave the same on the iPhone as it does on an Android or BlackBerry phone because of varying screen sizes, processing speeds, etc. Even one Android device is often radically different from another because of manufacturer customizations and operating system updates. GoMoMeter can help.
“You want to make sure you test on all [phones], or at least the most popular ones,” Mohan says. “Start testing your site early in the development process, and across many different devices. Once your site is deployed, your job is not done. You need to make sure your mobile site is constantly available and constantly working well. You need to be aware of the limitations and performance issues that users can face. Users need to be able to access your site wherever they are, from whichever device they’re using.”
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