Depending on whose statistics you read, mobile device usage has increased anywhere from 125 percent to 3000 percent in the past several years.
Regardless of the actual number, the reality is the same: in order to get visitors to convert, your site must be able to meet their needs whether they’re holding a mouse, a phone or a tablet. And the single best way to optimize for mobile conversions is to optimize the user experience.
Here are five practical tips for improving your mobile UX:
1. Design For The Device
The very first step in designing for the mobile device is to remember that users navigate differently on their phone or tablet than they do on their laptop or desktop.
When Google recently published the findings of their mobile usability studies, they noted that one distinguishing characteristic of mobile users is that they are goal-oriented:
They expect to be able to get what they need from a mobile site easily, immediately, and on their own terms. Ensure success by designing with their context and needs in mind without sacrificing richness of content.
It also helps to be aware that even though users love their phones and tablets, they aren’t in love with a lot of the online mobile experiences they have.
It gets frustrating to pinch and zoom on a tiny version of a website designed for desktop viewing.
But on the other hand, as a card-carrying member of the over-40 crowd, I can tell you firsthand how aggravating it is to be stuck using an app that won’t let me pinch and zoom to enlarge the small type (Yes, Amazon, I’m talking to you).
Depending on your audience and the percent of mobile traffic you are experiencing, you may find that you need an app as well as a dedicated mobile site or responsive site.
Grocery chain Safeway does exactly that, directing mobile traffic to its optimized m. site, but also promoting the added functionality and features available through the store’s app.
2. Put Your Call-To-Action Front & Center
What do you want users to do when they arrive at your site from their mobile device? Remember, these focused users are a different population than the ones who visit your desktop website, and you’ll need a direct route to lead them to that key conversion point.
Put a simple “subscribe” or “get a quote” or “call us” button right on your landing page, and make it easy to click with one finger. Secondary menu items can be located in less central areas of on-screen real estate.
The responsive or mobile version of your site can be constructed to have fewer pages, and navigation elements can also be decreased by using new grouping methods, as Ruth’s Chris has done with its mobile site
As you shape your users’ mobile experience, keep asking yourself what is the most persuasive element of your site? Do you have a dynamite special offer available? Or a super how-to video? A fantastic animation piece?
Remember that clicking and scrolling are tedious, and you want your users to see your most engaging content right away.
However, there is a caution that goes along with this suggestion: A big bright “sale” banner can distract from other visual content, so you have to make sure it occupies its own position and doesn’t draw people away from pages you’d like them to visit.
Google found that people seem to like dismissible banners telling about promotional offers, rather than large distracting “sale” notices that occupy a permanent menu position.
3. Don’t Be Too Iconic
Sometimes you’ll see a site that’s gotten just a bit too far ahead of its mobile customers, hiding their entire navigation menu under a little three-line symbol. As you can see on this example from Verizon Wireless, the icons may make for a simpler appearance, but unless your products are geared toward sophisticated digital natives, don’t assume that customers are going to understand what you mean.
Keep spelling out those navigation terms, and wait a few more years before switching over to icons alone.
On the other hand, you do have to shorten up your menus to provide a high-quality mobile experience. It’s good to use words, but not too many at once. If your regular webpage has a lot of groups or categories, try combining some of them so the initial list is shorter.
Look at how Goodyear has grouped a lot of content into easily digestible categories. Further filtering can help shoppers zero in on what they want without having to scroll down through long lists of choices.
4. Maintain Clear Interaction Cues
When site visitors are using a laptop or desktop computer, they have the advantage of relying on the cursor to indicate what is “clickable.” However, on mobile devices there is no hover behavior and no cursor that turns into a finger whenever it passes over a link.
What’s more, because viewing websites on mobile devices can be quite slow, most people are reluctant to start tapping all over the page for fear of inadvertently touching something they didn’t know was a link.
Ensure that your design makes it visually clear what elements on your site allow for user interactions. And make your buttons, links, form fields and other points of user interaction large enough to be easily clicked with a thumb, and spaced far enough away from other page elements that the user doesn’t risk clicking the wrong element.
5. Use Site Search & Filters
Remember that your mobile user is looking for something specific. Show them that you’re on their side by giving them a “search” field and implementing filters to guide them to what they’re looking for. Integrate various smart search options into your site, so that an incompletely typed phrase will still yield a page where the most relevant results appear first.
Filters are a great method for reducing the number of search results — which is a good thing — and showing users the actual number of results that their search filter yields is a way to save them time and help them know if they’ve done the right search. You don’t want them to be able to filter down a search to zero results.
Another good approach to searching is to ask a few filter questions ahead of time; for instance, if you’re selling clothing, you may want to ask if the person is looking for products for men or women. Ralph Lauren does this very well on its mobile site (although I could do without the dizzying sliding carousel).
Having a cross-device optimized experience for your site visitors is now a business imperative. And mobile is the bridge that links the customer’s physical and digital worlds. Invest the time and resources in getting your mobile UX right and you’ll reap the rewards of higher conversions across all channels, online as well as off.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.