As marketers, we all face the same primary challenge when tackling the mobile realm: How do we optimize our sites to create the best possible mobile experience for current and potential customers?
Recently, the industry has seen a heated debate erupt over the best way to approach this challenge---using M-Dot or responsive web design. Many marketers are in the Responsive Web Design camp. Using this approach, however, brings its own set of challenges. To understand why, let’s review both options.
The Responsive Web Design approach does not point the user to a dedicated mobile version of the site but scales the existing site down, so it fits the screen size of whatever device is being used, including both smartphones and tablets.
Many marketers look to this method because having a single content set that changes form factor for several device types seems like a true magic bullet. Marketers can save time and money on not having to design, develop and maintain different properties. Also, it is super-relevant, so if you have a responsive website, it shows that at some level that you “get it.”
But before choosing which optimization method is right for you, first understand what holds the most importance in the mobile site experience for users. More specifically, know what turns users off and, in turn, kills conversion opportunities.
Top Three Conversion Killers
Industry data has shown that the top three conversion killers are the following (in order of priority):
1. Load Time. If your mobile-optimized website loads slowly, then the user has a tendency to jump ship and move onto your competitor’s site.
2. User Interface Design and User Experience. If your mobile site is visually unappealing or unintuitive, your visitor is going to leave in a hurry. It is the kiss of death to put all your resources into your desktop experience then give your mobile site the scraps.
3. Relevance of Content. Looking for snowboard gloves---but somehow landed on a mobile site pushing Hello Kitty backpacks? No one would blame you for backing out and searching for a new site. However, to take it a step further, even if the user has the right mobile site but isn’t seeing the content relevant to him at that very moment, he is likely to leave. People using mobile devices typically are on the go, so keep this in mind and try to be as relevant as possible.
What Marketers Need to Know
Now that we know that speed, beauty, and relevancy are the most important factors in creating a successful mobile solution, what do marketers need to keep in mind when considering the response approach?
When creating a website with the desktop in mind first, developers are less worried about page load times since the average desktop computer has access to speedy broadband connections, more processing, and more RAM than a mobile device. But when users access a responsive website on their mobile device, they are downloading a full desktop site worth of content on a smaller device screen that pales in comparison to the desktop’s much faster specs. Though not having to update content in two places like you would have to with an M-Dot approach, you have to be more speculative of your load time in relation to your content.
Another significant hurdle is design. With M-Dot, you have the luxury to custom design the mobile site experience to your heart’s content. With the responsive approach, you have to design your website for the desktop, the tablet, and the smartphone holistically. You have to design with the foresight of what the navigation, for example, will look like when the resolution is scaled down or up.
The Magic Bullet Doesn't Exist
There is no magic bullet and there never will be. That's because needs, constraints, and requirements vary from site to site and brand to brand. The best way to evaluate your needs isn’t to listen to someone like me or look at your competition. The best way is to look at your own data and combine it with industry data. Learn from others mistakes and successes, and map it to how your visitors are interacting with your web properties.
Just make sure to make your design is fast, appealing, and relevant! If it is slow, ugly and misaligned with your visitors’ needs, then you are most likely losing a massive opportunity and helping your competition.