By Robert Castley
What to consider?
Creating a website offering isn’t just about scaling a website so it appears correctly on a different device; this is only the first step. The content and features also need to be relevant to the mobile user and take into consideration that they may use the site very differently to a visitor on a desktop. For example, a mobile visitor is often on the move, and therefore less likely to be browsing a site and more likely to be looking for something specific. It is important that a website owner prioritises what is most likely to be of interest to the mobile user, to satisfy this demand.
Taking a business mobile comes with a number of different options. At a very basic level, the choice between native mobile apps, mobile websites and a HTML5 site will have a big impact on how a user consumes a service on their mobile, and each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, HTML5 provides support for a cross-development environment quickly. However, HTML5 is still in its infancy and may have a long way to go before mainstream adoption, it could have glitches that an enterprise isn’t willing to risk. Native apps, on the other hand, offer reliable functionality and offline viewing, but they are not searchable and won’t show up in search engine results, although they have been proven to encourage customer retention as they more intensively engage users. All these factors need to be taken into account when developing a website for mobile devices.
Mobile sites also need to be consistent with other versions of the site and should be familiar to repeat shoppers in order to maintain their business. Considering a ‘three screen approach’ when expanding online services is extremely important. Consumers expect to be able to visit websites on whichever device they have to hand – tablet, smartphone or desktop – and the service delivered on each should be consistent. With different devices come different capabilities and therefore challenges, making development more complex. For example, differing screen sizes make it more difficult to present website content consistently across different devices. The rewards of taking all these into account when designing a mobile strategy, however, will see adoption rates sore, as usability and relevance is key to which app or site a visitor chooses.
Make it perform
The balance between familiarity and a site tailored to the device is made even more complicated by the fact that as each element is tweaked, the performance of the site may be compromised. An additional feature – a live feed, video or flash content, for example – will result in a higher number of objects on a page and the size of the page to increase. This will likely cause the site to take longer to load, as well as having a higher risk of crashing. While these additional features may be attractive to visitors if they perform well, if they don’t, they are likely to turn visitors to competitor sites and deter them from visiting again. Statistics, such as load times and availability rates, are important to be able to benchmark a site’s performance, but they will only tell a business so much. It is paramount that, in addition to this, monitoring and testing is used to take the business through the real user journey, to truly understand how a website is perceived and where the pain points really are, on each device, network and operating system. Simply using a traditional website for visitors accessing on a mobile device will not suffice.
Testing can be done in a variety of ways, for example, 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. To create a good mobile experience, which can be delivered quickly to market, it is important that both these techniques are used to get an accurate picture of how a mobile website is delivered to consumers and to assure the connected experience. As well as regular testing of the site, website owners should also continually monitor performance to ensure load times are within an acceptable tolerance and site availability is kept above 99 percent. This will ensure that any issues are flagged to the website team, before they have an impact on the end user.
A combination of emulated and real user testing and monitoring will allow business owners to access comprehensive views of their web performance, giving them the information to analyse and act on site and application performance issues quickly. Furthermore, by looking beyond isolated page statistics, any improvement will directly address visitor issues and improve the overall experience.
Deliver a complete package
Ultimately, companies need to develop a mobile offering as part of a holistic approach to the whole online service. The multiple devices and operating systems need to be handled by a synched up team, under one strategy, to ensure cohesion across the sites, yet an ability to tailor the sites to each different device and operating system.
Bringing these elements together can be complicated. With the right team and right testing and monitoring, however, a bespoke mobile strategy can provide a substantial return on investment. The potential customer base for the business will widen and the service being offered to customers will have broadened. Consequently, competition for this online business is predictably fierce and to win out, businesses need to get the best mobile site on the market, fast. The only way to do this effectively is to see what the user sees and perfect the user experience.
About the author
Robert Castley is performance management expert at Keynote.
Robert Castley has been a solutions consultant at internet testing and monitoring specialist Keynote, for over three years. Prior to working at Keynote, Robert worked as a Professional Services Consultant at a document management company, Macro 4, where he worked on developing custom web interfaces. He regularly engages with customers and has an in-depth technical knowledge in web development. One of his proudest achievements is developing one of the world’s most popular Open Source Content Management Systems to the masses – Mambo, which now lives on as Joomla!
Robert is an authoritative spokesperson on web performance and regularly participates in industry events on the topic. Robert is passionate about the need to provide the optimum experience for internet users, irrelevant of the device they are using. He advocates a ‘three screen approach’ that provides a consistent experience whether a website is being accessed via mobile, tablet or desktop computer.
About the company
Keynote Systems is the global leader in Internet and mobile cloud monitoring. It provides companies with solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Founded in 1995, Keynote provides testing, monitoring and measurement products and services for any enterprise including online portals, e-commerce sites, B2B sites, mobile operators and mobile infrastructure providers. Keynote products and services help companies improve customer experience in four areas: Web performance, mobile quality, streaming and real user experience testing.