By Susan T. Evans
User experience matters. It mattered when the web was young and it still does. Who doesn’t at least give lip service to usability? The overused phrase, “It needs to be more intuitive” is right up there with “Actions speak louder than words.” Mobile content delivery will perhaps force an understanding that user experience cannot be discounted or ignored. Combine space constraints and a lack of tolerance for poor usability, and maybe, it creates our chance to get it right. Maybe, mobile will fix the web, one site at a time.
Size and expectations matter.
At the moment, we are more patient when seated at a desktop or when browsing web content on a laptop. In both cases, there are “tools” that help us cope with a subpar user experience. After all, I can often muddle through usability barriers using my second monitor or my trackpad. I can limp along while navigating poorly designed web pages.
Fast forward to my device(s) and it’s a different story. When my phone takes me to a make-no-attempt-to-optimize-for-mobile website, it goes like this, “Seriously. You know I’m on my [expletive of choice here] phone, right? Aw, never mind.”
True story: My daughter is a new college grad and she’s pretty familiar with what I do for a living. One day, I casually asked her whether she ever looked at college websites on her phone and her response — she didn’t miss a beat — was, “Yeah, what’s up with that? Why don’t they have mobile?” I tried to continue the conversation, explaining that colleges are trying to figure this out gradually and resources are limited. She had little interest in this explanation and neither do your visitors. Your visitors don’t know about responsive web design. They just know if they can read and use your site on their phones.
In a nutshell, patience for poor user experience on mobile and a willingness to cope with poor usability will be less typical as each day passes. We’re all on borrowed time.
Show me what you’ve got.
A solid brand strategy answers three questions: 1) Who are you?, 2) What do you do? and 3) Why does it matter? (Thanks, Marty Neumeier.) Even a poor user experience on the mobile web will probably answer question one. And, perhaps, the visitor’s own search from a mobile device makes the answer to the second less important. But user experience can make or break the content that speaks to “Why does it matter?”
A brand-based content strategy means you show me what you’ve got, and fast, and it needs to count. These days, I’m thrilled when brand is intentionally reinforced by the mobile experience. Take my bank as a stellar example. A trip to suntrust.com brings me to a personal banking log-in page. Outstanding! Yes, the button for the full suntrust.com site is presented but my bank knows that, from my phone, I probably want to log in. There’s a lot of simplicity behind this complexity. Someone had to make choices. Someone made intentional decisions about brand experience. Someone thought about content first.
Thanks to all who fight the good fight. I’m hoping mobile experience will fix the web.
About the Author
Susan T. Evans is the senior strategist for mStoner, a marketing and communications consulting firm based in Chicago. She leads mStoner’s content strategy and social media practices.