The Mobile Web

A Look Beyond the Buzzwords

Marketing vs. Technology Series

Since 2001, MoJo Active has continued to prove itself as an integrated marketing agency, often competing with technical companies that offer one or more similar services. As the Director of Marketing Technology, I have the unique opportunity to sit on both sides of the marketing/technical table and to help shape how decisions are made on each. In this series, we will be cutting through some of the "technological red tape" that often gets in the way of marketing efforts.

A decision made for technological reasons rarely allows you to reach your marketing potential.

Today's Topic: The Mobile Web

To compete in today's market, delivering content to a mobile audience is not an option, it is the ante to play the game. With mobile website visits surpassing desktop across a wide array of industries, the conversation is no longer about "IF" you tailor your marketing efforts to this audience, it is about "HOW" you meet their needs better than your competitor. If you're reading this article, you probably know that you need to be present in the mobile space, but how do you get started?

If your mobile audience is an afterthought in your marketing efforts, you are telling half of your potential customers to take a number and wait.

With a seemingly endless number of marketing & technical buzzwords, it is easy to get lost in all of the jargon.

  • Do you need a Mobile First website?
  • Should you insist on Responsive Design?
  • What is the difference between Graceful Degradation & Progressive Enhancement?
  • Do you need both a Mobile App AND a Website?
It is easy to lose sight of the end goal.  The point of getting a new website is to acquire new customers and to help existing customers get what they need!

Which tools are best for my website?

If you take nothing else from this article, you need to leave with the understanding that the buzzwords above are all tools in a web developers toolbox. Asking "Is a Mobile First design better that Desktop First?" is equivalent to asking "Is a hammer better than a screwdriver?" Each tool has a use that it is better suited for, and just like a hammer and screwdriver, it is possible to use the wrong tool for the job.

Choosing the "right" tool has to be driven by your marketing objectives.

Choosing a technical approach before flushing out your marketing objective is like deciding to use a hammer before you know if you have screws or nails.

Mobile First vs. Desktop First

There is a lot of confusion surrounding Mobile First design, largely because the name "Mobile First" better describes the tactic than the strategy behind the mindset. Obviously, it is true that the mobile screens are created before the desktop in Mobile First design, but the more important question is, why?

The strategy behind Mobile First has to do with the evolution of the web. In the early years of the web, desktop computers were the only way that you could browse the content on the internet. Devices like tablets and phones were a late addition to the mix, and because of this, many websites took the "squish your content" approach to serving these users. It was a common belief that mobile users were to be treated exactly the same as desktop users, and that you just had to make all the content from the desktop site fit on a smaller screen. There have been numerous studies that disprove this thinking, including Google's "Micro-Moments" research, and the Mobile First movement was an attempt to counteract the "squish your content" approach in favor of giving mobile users an experience that met their needs.

Mobile First design helps to combat the outdated mindset that desktop & mobile users come to your website with the same goals.

So back to the question, do you have to use Mobile First design in order to create a targeted mobile experience that addresses your customers needs when they are on the go? No, certainly not. Is it a useful tool for focusing on the mobile experience, without being influenced by an existing desktop paradigm? Absolutely!

Either way, mobile website design requires a very intentional effort and the recognition that the goals of a mobile user frequently do not align with the goals of a desktop user. Mobile users want to make a phone call, look up your nearest location because as they are in transit, or quickly find a specific piece of information on their model of your product. The needs of the mobile user are much more immediate, and if you don't provide what they are looking for, they will just jump to the next competitor who does.

Mobile website design, regardless of when it is done, requires a focused effort. You cannot simply "squish" the desktop content onto a smaller screen.

Responsive Web Design

Like Mobile First, Responsive Design (RWD) is an often misunderstood tool in the mobile marketing mix. RWD is a design technique that uses a set of technology (HTML, CSS & JavaScript) to make web content display nicely on any device. A well designed responsive website will display nicely on any size device from a phone up to a wide screen TV, but looking good and performing well are not the same thing.

For the last few years, Google has been increasing its focus on mobile and recently started to focus on how fast your website loads on a phone and how easy it is to use. In May of this year, they introduced a new mobile-friendly testing tool, with the intention of replacing their previous mobile testing resource. If you want to earn a "mobile-friendly" rating from this tool, your site will need to have a good balance of aesthetics and performance. RWD can help make the aesthetic part easier, but it often ignores the performance component. So, as with Mobile First, RWD is not a silver bullet, but it can be an important component in an effective mobile strategy.

Google has turned their focus to mobile in recent years, making it clear that this industry heavy-hitter cares how your mobile website measures up!

Mobile App vs. Mobile Website

It is well beyond the scope of this article to dive into the Mobile App vs. Website debate, but suffice it to say that both have their place in the mobile landscape. Mobile Websites are far better at getting people information quickly, but they typically have a lower engagement rate than a Mobile App. On the flip side, Mobile App users typically spend much more time in an app that a visitor spends on your website, but finding and installing an app can be a cumbersome barrier that prevents your customers from engaging at all. If you are interested in an in-depth read on the topic, head over to the MOZ Blog and read their Mobile Web vs Mobile Apps article.  It provides a well-researched look at the App/Web paradigm.

Mobile App vs. Mobile Website: either/both could help your business, but be sure you're investing in the right one.

Where do we go from here?

Hopefully, this article helped to explain how some of the more common mobile buzzwords actually fit into a marketing effort, but this is by no means the end of the discussion. The Mobile Web is a complex, rapidly changing ecosystem; speaking from the perspective of someone who works in this space everyday, it can be very hard to keep abreast with all there is to know. The good news is, MoJo Active is here so that you don't have to. Head on over to our contact page and let's start a conversation!

Contact Us to get the mobile conversation started today!