For many sole traders and small companies, the ability to manage business on the move is crucial and these groups have been among the highest adopters of smart phone technology. Additionally, small businesses rely heavily upon Web sites to attract new business, necessitating an awareness of trends towards mobile Web usage.
It’s estimated that nearly a third of individuals now use their mobile to browse the Internet and this figure will be substantially higher among smart phone users. Additionally, Nielsen.com predicts that smart phones will account for nearly half of worldwide sales by 2013. This is a staggering figure and it’s safe to assume will radically alter the way consumers interact with the Internet.
Usability Is Key
Usability issues, however, are hindering even greater uptake. A report into mobile Web usability by Jakob Nielsen, concluded that current mobile Web user experiences are generally miserable and that they are held back by three things; small screen size, awkward input and the poor design of companies’ Web sites.
You can’t do much about the physical design of handsets, but small businesses can improve the effectiveness of their Web sites. The aim must be to configure them so as to enhance, rather than detract from, the mobile Web experience.
Web sites are generally designed to be viewed on a computer screen. The navigational structure and content that is served to customers is based upon what will render well on those large screen sizes. Even so, we’ve all encountered Web sites which are too cluttered, and will appreciate how this can hinder attempts to find relevant information or complete specific tasks. The first thing that smart phone users report when they try out the mobile Web is how horrible most of the Web site experiences are, even with Web sites that they rank amongst their favorites for PC usage. The basic reason for this is that they are attempting to view a site that hasn’t been set up with mobile handsets in mind.
The key actions you can take are:
- Create a mobile-specific version of your Web Site. This will have stripped down content and will be focused upon the products and customer journeys that are really important to you.
- Offer users the ability to either navigate to your standard PC-optimized Web Site or to your cut-down Mobile Web Site. Using labels such as “XYZ.com – mobile optimized” and “XYZ.com – PC optimized” should help users to determine which site will best meet their needs.
- Consider the use of specific applications. The iPhone market has been incredibly successful and has been based upon the concept that users download a packaged application that allows them to do a certain task. Where feasible, this can greatly enhance the consumer experience.