“Mobile” remains a buzzword in digital even though the term isn’t recent; in fact, its origin is extremely dated. However, what is undeniable is the increasing growth in the mobile sector and the role it is playing industry wide. Disregard the hype, we are indeed slowly mobilizing, but the solution is not to take existing websites and experiences and port them to a new platform. Take a step back to fully understand all aspects of the platform—the evolution, the advantages, and the disadvantages—and then embark on strategic efforts to create the ideal solution.
According to the July 2010 PEW Mobile Access Report as of Q2 2010, 59% of US adults have online experiences with mobile devices a usage increase in over 50% compared to a 2009 study. This is concrete evidence that mobile is a growing medium in the US and an area where more consumption is occurring. The demand for mobile applications and experiences has also been on the rise: a September 2010 PEW report states that 35% of US adults have applications installed on their phones. The growth in mobile applications and the mobile web is indisputable. What mobile developers, agencies, and marketers are failing to pay attention to is that (1) mobile content should vastly differ from website content and (2) the mobile experience in its entirety should be viewed from a different perspective—from design to execution.
Patterns of mobile behavior vary drastically from web/desktop usage to mobile experiences. The key differentiators are intent, functionality, and screen real estate. Take a moment to think about the tools at your disposal for browsing the web on your desktop: a sophisticated browser, keyboard, mouse, and decent-sized display. Browsing on mobile devices doesn’t offer the luxury of space or time—consumption is in real time. Thus, due to the current limitations of the mobile medium, it is crucial that we focus on this platform as a new medium and not just an extension of a website.
Successful mobile experiences should not require browsing, search, or any indirect/nonintuitive methods of discovery. Content, color, design, navigation, and information architecture should all be custom tailored to the mobile platform allowing users to quickly and seamlessly locate and engage with the relevant information or features they are seeking.
“Optimizing” existing websites to be viewable on mobile devices is definitely taking a step in the right direction. However, thinking of mobile design, development, and delivery as a complete paradigm shift and treating it as a new medium will result in the most value for your visitors and business.