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“Where” may be more important than “who”

Posted by Peter Platt on March 30th, 2012 at 10:49 am

US Smartphone Penetration - NielsenFinally, we can now safely say that the year of mobile has arrived. According to Nielsen, 50% of US mobile phone users now have smartphones. Looking at your web analytics you're probably seeing upwards of 5-10% of your traffic coming from mobile devices (for some industries that traffic can be significantly higher). Less than a year ago, sites were only seeing 1-2% of their traffic from mobile visitors.

It's time to jump on the bandwagon...It's time for a mobile site (or app) and you need it now.

Looking at the right things

Before you run out and start developing (or updating) your mobile presence, it's important to realize that mobile visitors aren't all the same, and their needs vary dramatically based on the device they are using.

Traditionally the biggest question most people have had when they look at web analytics is: Who are all these people that come to my site? However, for mobile visitors it's critical to step back and ask yourself what do they want and how they are seeing it. Then make sure they find what they need when they arrive.

Getting more granular, when you take a look at the mobile traffic reported in Google Analytics, you'll quickly notice that tablet traffic is lumped in with smartphone traffic. Initially, this seems like a logical breakout from desktop/laptop computer traffic, but the reality is, the needs of these visitors are very different depending on which device they are using and where they are using it.

Device impact

So what difference does the device make? Last week I was talking with a restaurant owner about mobile traffic to his  sites and we spent some time discussing the nuances of how much the needs of these visitors differed.

Scenario A:
Mobile User A came to their site via their Android smartphone at 5:30 at night - most likely the information they needed was a phone number to call to make reservations (or make them from their mobile device), check how busy the restaurant was, or perhaps driving directions to get to the restaurant from wherever they happened to be at the moment.

Scenario B:
Mobile User B arrived at the site at roughly the same time, but they came in on their iPad. User B's motivations were completely different - they were likely more interested in the menu, perhaps the nutritional information, or making plans for a group outing that following weekend. But they aren't as focused as your typical web visitor - roughly 40% are use the device while watching TV (Source: Nielsen).

So as you can see, the user's needs are critical to ensuring they have a successful experience on your web site. User B might have had a hard time with the flash animations on the home page, User A might have problems trying to discern tiny copy on a page shrunk down to fit their smartphone screen. So when it comes to mobile, it's clear that users needs can vary dramatically and just because your site is "mobile enabled" it may not be "mobile optimized."

Steps to going mobile

The first thing you should do when you start thinking about enhancing your mobile site is to reach into your pocket and visit your web page on your smartphone, then grab your iPad, your friend's tablet, your spouse's phone and repeat the process. Look closely. Do you like what you're seeing? Is it portraying the online presence you wanted? And most importantly does it provide helpful information?

The next step is to create list of all the ways mobile visitors might be inspired to come to your site. Were they on their iPad, watching TV and just saw your TV commercial? Are they running out of a meeting late, pulled out their phone and are trying to find directions to your location (while parked safely on the roadside of course)? Build out your long list of scenarios, ask your friends and co-workers, look at your current mobile traffic and then content they read. Think about the time of day, their location, their devices and how to meet their needs. Write them all down, don't dismiss the odd ideas (yet), and compile as comprehensive a list as you can.

Finally, armed with all this information, it's time to meet with your web developer, prioritize what's important and start developing a mobile presence that's "where" enabled, you can figure out who they are later!

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