the role of mobile user experience in the digital communications plan

Here’s a quantitative look at how user experience and usability can influence user conversion on an organisation’s own website.

by Sarah Gill

The experience of your target audience when interacting with your app or website on a mobile device should be an essential consideration in every digital communications plan.

Users form their emotional reaction to your organisation very quickly and if their information needs aren’t met swiftly, abandonment will surely follow.

Not to be confused with usability, the consideration of the user experience represents a holistic approach to all aspects of a user’s interaction with a business, it’s service and products. User experience and usability are terms often used interchangeably but there are key differences...

  • Usability specifically concerns the ease with which a user can achieve their goals using a digital property and includes the evaluation of barriers in the journey
  • User experience involves designing a user’s path through every touch point and optimising their interactions with the organisation to drive engagement, conversion and eventual advocacy.

The expectation of the audience is high. They expect a fast, easy and secure mobile experience, just as they are used to on their desktop devices. In fact, when Google surveyed smartphone users they found 61% of people would quickly abandon a mobile site that didn’t deliver. Worse still, a poor mobile user experience would see around half of the surveyed group feeling that their business wasn’t important and less likely to engage with that company in the future.

As Smartphone ownership continues to grow, particularly in the 16 – 24 age bracket, twice the amount of time online is spent on smartphones than on laptop and desktop computers. This is reflected in the recent news that the volume of Google searches on mobile devices in 10 countries, including the US and Japan, has now overtaken those conducted on desktop and laptop computers. As tablet ownership also continues to grow, it’s time to put the mobile user front and centre of digital communications planning.

Using the incredibly easy to follow SOSTAC model, below are some tips for considering the mobile user experience.

Situation analysis – what does your target audience need?

1. Deliver the user's information needs in as few a clicks as possible

Use customer insight and user personas to determine the key characteristics of the target audience and their information needs. Prioritise meeting these needs with content easily located in a simple navigation structure. Feature the top levels of the information hierarchy in the menu and allow users to refine and filter accordingly. Ensure you’re planning to acquire and retain their engagement from the very first touch point.

2. Consider mobile specific features and limitations

Build your app or website so it can utilise features present in many mobile devices, such as GPS, touch screens and accelerometer. Every 2 in 3 people will use an app regularly if it simplifies their lives, so it’s worth making it as integrated with the device as possible. In equal measures, consider functional limitations that could render a digital property unusable on a mobile device. For instance, avoid flash animations and hover-over menu options.

Objectives – what do you want the target audience to do?

3. Keep load times as short as possible

Whatever conversions you’re aiming to drive, whether connected to Wifi or a mobile data network, users will not hang around for a slow loading site. One survey reported that 46% of mobile users will wait no more than 10 seconds before abandoning a loading page, which means they will have moved on before they have engaged with you if you’re slow to present your content.

4. Design cotent to be easily accessed on mobile

Coupled with considering load times, large images, long videos and popups also make mobile properties much less user friendly. Small fonts can make text presented in the single column layout on smartphones impossible to read.

Strategy, Tactics & Actions – how do you get the target audience to do it?

5. Categorise information and limit volume

Users can become easily overwhelmed by information presented in great quantities. Equally, information in a polyhierarchy will cause users too much confusion when trying to refine their search results. Forcing users to think too hard will impact their likelihood of conversion (see Nielsen Norman). Offering a route to the desktop version of your site for users to do need more in-depth information can overcome any concerns with limiting information available.

6. Simple forms that look inviting not tedious

If your conversion objective requires completion of a form, make sure you consider the length of it and gather only the essential data. Tick boxes are especially difficult to complete on a smartphone, so test and re-test the mobile version of the form to ensure it’s fit for a mobile device.

7. Integrate social at every possible step

Give your target audience a range of channels through which they can interact with you, share your content and tell others about your offering. 73% of Facebook’s daily user base now access the site through mobile devices so if your objective is engagement, plan how social will form part of that.

8. If a payment gateway is required, offer mobile-friendly options

If you have a purchase objective, make sure that the payment gateway is optimised for mobile. Security reassurance, progress indicators and minimal on-page clutter all make for a great user experience. It will also lead to fewer confused and potentially angry customers needing to contact you by phone or email, which in turn will save admin resources.

9. Allow guest purchases

Unless it’s mission critical, allow users to complete a transaction or conversion without signing in or creating an account. Offering a sign up / login option at the end of a conversion process once all the user’s data has been assembled can significantly reduce friction. The team behind the Hotel Tonight app reported a 15% increase in bookings by adopting this tactic.

Control – how are you measuring performance?

10. Reviews, feedback and continual improvement

Use an analytics package, such as Google Analytics, to delve into the behaviours of your mobile audience. Pose yourself specific questions that relate to the success of your project and use those findings to propose further improvements.

Presenting an optimal mobile user experience is not something that can be done once to a digital property and never again, it’s an ongoing process of both incremental and project development work coupled with back office and customer service coordination. By working towards a culture of putting mobile users first and continually striving to make their lives easier, you will be ensuring your future success with your target audience.

Sarah Gill is Digital Marketing Manager at Newcross Healthcare Solutions. A recent graduate of the MSc Digital Marketing Communications programme at Manchester Metropolitan University, her masters dissertation research featured a quantitative look at how user experience and usability can influence user conversion on the organisation’s own website.