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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A need for speed on mobile websites

While the majority of smartphone users want to shop with their phones, only a small minority of retailers offer either mobile apps or websites. One study puts the number of mobile-friendly retailers (app or site) at 32 percent; another counts less than 5 percent of retailers with a mobile-specific site.

Retailers need to catch up in a hurry. The smartphone tipping point was officially reached in spring of this year, according to Nielsen, with 55 percent of new cell phone purchases now being smartphones. Smartphone users express a strong preference to use their phones to shop, but a majority of them find the mobile shopping experience unsatisfactory — 54 percent say mobile apps and sites are “ineffective and difficult to use.”

A Harris Interactive study found that, of adults who conducted a mobile transaction in the past year, 4 out of 5 experienced a problem. And yet 85 percent of the same survey group expects the mobile experience to be equal to or better than using a computer.

It doesn’t have to be such an unsatisfying experience for users. It’s not rocket science to create a mobile site that loads with acceptable speed and delivers the features consumers want. What it requires is a change in mindset from desktop Web thinking to mobile Web thinking. Techniques that make for a rich, and yet still high-performing, experience on the desktop can render the mobile experience painfully slow or even unusable.

The good news is that on the mobile Web, user expectations of content are likely more modest. They are typically more focused on a task — finding an address, getting a price, seeing a product, buying a single item — rather than the more leisurely browsing or immersive experience they might be looking for on a desktop or laptop. So from the start, mobile content can be pared down without compromising likely use cases, so you can already be ahead of the game simply by selectively choosing content for mobile.

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