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Building an Online Empire: The Importance of Being Mobile-Friendly

It’s no revelation that the average smartphone owner uses their device for more than texts and calls. From ordering food, buying clothes, checking the stock market, and hailing taxis — it seems there isn’t anything our six inch wonders can’t do.

So why do designers and developers continue to create sites that aren’t mobile- friendly?

With Google’s switch to preferring mobile devices clearly on the horizon, I share the most important reasons to get mobile optimised, as well as exactly how to do it.

Customers buy on mobile

It’s been found that over 60% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months, and with online shopping up by 45% in the last year alone, those figures are set to rise again.

How to do it: Maximise user experience

When optimising for mobile, remember that the user is king. Lay out your site so that the navigation is simple, the design is clean, and any buttons are large enough for a touchscreen.

Certain ecommerce apps have free mobile friendly themes and layouts already set up. While some have features that benefit the traders as well as the customers — with the power of mobile, shops can now literally be run from your pocket.

There are many tools and sites that can help you with optimising your UX and UI, but sometimes going back to basics is key. To really test how your site works on a phone, check it out yourself. View it on your mobile, your colleagues’ mobiles, your mum’s mobile! Get a clear view of how your site looks and works on a host of different devices and networks.

Scale this up and invest in some user testing — no longer as expensive as it once was, this is a great way to get the most out of your web design, and it may flag up some unexpected insights.

Smartphone in hand.

Photo by Jaelynn Castillo on Unsplash

Research Online/Purchase Offline

88% of shoppers use mobile devices to research products and services before buying them, while 72% of users research while in a physical shop.

Research Online Purchase Offline (ROPO) is a common consumer habit that’s on the rise. If you’re designing a site for a physical store, be sure the user knows how to find you.

How to do it: Understand customer location

You can’t force users to only buy online. You can tempt them with offers and loyalty programmes, but for certain products, such as clothing, customers prefer to see them up close and try them on.

However, consumers do use their devices to research and find physical shops and services; the exponential rise of the search term “Near me” is proof of this alone.

Embedding a business map that is easy to find, clear to read, and integrates effortlessly with your users’ existing location apps (Google Maps, Uber, Citymapper) is an excellent way to pull in the ROPO shoppers. To really make the most of customer geography, consider using geo-location to customise and target marketing campaigns.

Providing search engine results that are local to users is what Google has been developing and streamlining in recent years, so keep Google happy, and your customers will be too.

Which leads me to the next point…

Woman wearing sunglasses while holding shopping bags.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Google loves mobile

The mobile-first Google index refers to Google’s imminent move to preferring mobile sites over purely desktop ones. No one is entirely sure when it will land, but it has been rumoured to be anytime within the next 12 months. While they have said they will continue to index non-mobile sites, Google love to offer their users the best possible service that reflects their ever changing needs; and as more and more people prefer to browse on mobile devices — you do the math!

How to do it: Speed up

With 53% of mobile users abandoning sites that take longer than 3 seconds to load, it’s never been more important to make sure your site runs fast.

Keep your site simple, compress images, and only include information that adds to your site’s narrative. Trim the fat and be ruthless.

Use Pagespeed Insights to check your site speed, JSCompress to minify unnecessary data, and check out Google’s guide to image optimisation to get great quality images at a fraction of the size.

Google Logo

Photo Credit: Google

Whether we like it or not: The future is battery powered, and those who resist making their sites mobile friendly will simply be left behind, lost and forgotten on the third page of Google.

The switch to mobile is the biggest online shakeup in history, and will significantly affect how we design sites, interact with users; and, ultimately, how we do business online and off. However, instead of viewing the change as a trial, see it as an opportunity to streamline your site, put user experience first and experiment with exciting, rising technology, like Voice Search.

Whether you’re excited for the mobile revolution or prefer a more traditional setup, the change is coming. Act quickly, follow these tips, and you’ll be ready!

Victoria Greene
Victoria Greene: Writer & Digital Marketing Specialist

I live for everything digital. When I’m not battling through a snake’s pit of wires, or devouring tech blogs, I’m dreaming up news ways to improve online businesses. I love learning about the ever-growing world of tech and sharing my insider knowledge.

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