‘Smartphone society’ calls for a mobile-first strategy

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/Leonardo Patrizi)

According to Ofcom’s latest stats (PDF), smartphones have taken over laptops as the most popular device for getting online. 33 percent of people see their smartphone as the most important device for accessing the internet, whereas only 30 percent of people see their laptop as the first port of call. Ofcom suggested that 4G networks are driving this change in behaviour, as subscriptions leapt to 23.6 million by the end of 2014. 

If these figures infer anything, it’s that mobile sites and applications will be under increasing pressure to perform well, in terms of being quick to load and reliable, because more traffic will be hitting the sites and expectations for good mobile content are on the increase. A good customer experience is the key to creating a reputation for reliability, so it is critical that companies ensure their mobile sites and applications load quickly and are consistently available for customer to access.

Mobile first strategies will be critical

There is no doubt that 4G networks are encouraging people to access the internet on their smartphones, not least because it offers a faster, more reliable service on-the-go than 3G. There are also a number of other trends that are driving this move towards mobile, for example, ‘showrooming’ is seeing customers browse for products in a traditional brick-and-mortar store, but compare, contrast and buy the item on a mobile device online. 

The fact that the UK has been dubbed a ‘smartphone society’ means designing a site with a mobile first mind-set will be critical to attracting, retaining and growing a customer base. This is not least because while a company might design a site or application that is appealing to its customers, if it is not mobile optimised, its appeal may be lost due to slow load times or crashing pages.  

One of the most common misconceptions when designing a mobile site is that you can just ‘shrink’ the desktop site. This approach doesn’t work, because it fails to take into account the impact a smaller screen size has on readability or the varying functionalities of different devices and ultimately delivers a subpar customer experience. 

By considering the mobile environment first, functions too complex for a mobile homepage – such as a third party plug-in, like a rolling Twitter feed – would be added only to the desktop site after the mobile experience has been solidified. Eliminating incompatible elements from the mobile environment will not only make a site more readable but less prone to performance issues. 

Mobile optimisation

For any company to ensure it delivers the best possible mobile experience, monitoring and testing devices should be a top priority. This is the only way that organisations can ensure a good customer experience on mobile, regardless of the device, network, level of traffic or operating system.

Website owners should continually monitor performance to ensure the site loads quickly and that any issues are flagged before they have an impact on the customer. Testing should also be carried out, and can be done in a number of ways. Emulated testing is done by an automated machine running scripts, making it fast and easily comparable, whereas real user testing can simulate the actual visitor journey, giving its results more credibility but making it a slower process. Using both of these techniques will provide companies with an accurate picture of how a mobile website is delivered to consumers.

Ultimately, smartphone growth is showing no signs of slowing down. Companies must, therefore, see this as an opportunity to not only boost their brand reputation, but to drive business profitability as they provide a mobile experience that meets the changing behaviour of the consumer.

Do you think mobile site performance is more important than ever? Let us know in the comments.

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