Google Survey Reveals What Users Want From Mobile Sites

smartphonesWith its latest survey Google has affirmed that smartphone owners want sites to be optimized for their smaller screens and are inclined to abandon those that aren’t. There’s nothing especially revealing or controversial in these particular findings. What’s more interesting about the study Google is releasing this morning is the data about features and capabilities that people want from mobile sites, including some specific things by vertical.

Google used two independent research firms to survey more than 1,000 US adults, who also participated in focus group discussions and kept journals of their mobile activities. The interviews and survey took place in Q3 this year.

Bad Experiences Hurt the Brand

We know from considerable past research that mobile users don’t like to be frustrated by sites and user experiences that aren’t optimized for mobile. Google’s survey findings reinforce this:

  • 72 percent of users said that mobile-friendly sites were important to them; however 96 percent had encountered sites that were not
  • 74 percent of respondents said they’re more likely to revisit mobile-friendly sites
  • A majority of users (67 percent) are more likely to buy or convert after a visit to a mobile-friendly site, while the opposite is also true of a non-mobile-friendly site: 61 percent say they’ll “move on”
  • 55 percent said a frustrating experience on a (mobile) website would hurt the perception of the brand

What Users Want from Mobile Sites

Users expect mobile websites to load in under five seconds according to the survey findings. However even five seconds is a long time. The general proposition is: the faster the better.

The survey also found that smartphone owners want the ability to take action when on a mobile website. The preceding chart shows the hierarchy of actions that mobile users consider to be important. It’s interesting that 53 percent said “download an app.” There are several things implied by this answer, but it suggests high demand for apps overall.

The following graphic drills down on specific design and usability elements that people want from mobile sites.

Tasks Vary by Vertical

The survey explores several verticals and corresponding mobile user behaviors in Banking, Travel, Retail and Automotive. Below are the “most important tasks” users want to be able to perform or accomplish on mobile websites in each category according to the survey.

Banking & Finance:

  • Check account balances: 77 percent
  • Get directions or operating hours: 65 percent
  • Log into an account: 61 percent
  • Pay bills: 51 percent
  • Transfer money: 51 percent


  • Check flight status: 78 percent
  • Get directions or operating hours: 74 percent
  • Check in for a flight or confirm a reservation: 69 percent
  • Find a business location: 65 percent
  • Log in to an account: 64 percent
  • Search for flight times, hotels, car rentals: 63 percent
  • Find a phone number or email address: 57 percent


  • Get directions or operating hours: 74 percent
  • Contact the store: 64 percent
  • Find product information: 61 percent
  • Make a purchase or order a service: 50 percent


  • Get directions or operating hours: 66 percent
  • Contact a dealer: 62 percent
  • Make a service appointment: 55 percent

There were also a number of activities that users were less inclined to perform on mobile devices in each of these categories. However, what this study makes clear is that mobile user sophistication is growing quickly and expectations of mobile sites are also rising. As the survey indicates, marketers and brands that fail to keep pace with those expectations will suffer accordingly.

Google is hosting a free webinar tomorrow at 1pm EST/10 am PST for those interested in hearing more results as well as case studies.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Statistics: Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Popularity & Usage | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • grahamjones

    This is interesting stuff, albeit completely at odds with another recent study finding that people actually do not want mobile web as much as many pundits would like us to think. The Google study actually adds some clarity to that by showing what people want from the mobile web. However, the study is weakened by the fact that it is only really interested in consumers – people going to retailers or those wanting to conduct transactions, such as checking in for flights or doing some banking. However, there is considerable untapped opportunity for the mobile web in the “business to business” sector, but focusing on studying consumer activity essentially ignores this. Indeed, much of what is written about the mobile web is biased towards consumers. And whilst that is important, it is focusing discussion on what mobile web presence should be like in a rather one-sided way.

  • Salyris Studios

    I wonder if the survey included responsive web designs?

  • Greg Sterling

    Please indicate the study you’re referencing. Regarding why consumers are the focus of so many of these studies . . . it’s because consumers are a much larger audience than the B2B segment. It’s also easier to conduct consumer surveys and studies than B2B.

  • Greg Sterling

    That’s not clear from the materials I received. I suspect RWD was not a part of it however.

  • Greg Sterling

    That’s bad or superficial design. A well-designed mobile site experience or app can be better than a conventional website, most of which are quite bloated and overloaded.

  • grahamjones

    It was in a marketing newsletter I received recently – I’ll go back over the issues and let you know as soon as poss.

  • Ivan Petrov

    Apple or Android phone? The mobile OS war has long been a two-player contest, with Apple iOS and Google Android , but I think IPHONE THE BEST

  • Salyris Studios

    Thanks Greg. I bet it would change the experience and their results.

  • SuzanneDelzio

    Also, while the article focuses mostly on B2C for retailers, what about professional services providers? Aren’t people reading their tablets in bed to look them up?

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