Common Mobile Myths That May Be Hurting Your Website

posted this in
Web Design
on May 21st, 2013

Smartphones and tablets are still relatively new technology (at least in the grand scheme of history), so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

If you’re looking to remake your mobile site or convert your website to a responsive design, here are three mobile myths you should watch out for.

Myth 1: You should shorten your content for mobile devices

In the early days of the mobile web, this was common advice from many “experts.” When making your mobile site, cut the content down to the bare essentials because your mobile visitors are “on the go” and need different information than your desktop visitors.

Not only is this premise unfounded (see the next myth), but the logic is also flawed.

  • If there is something that is unneeded on your website, shouldn’t you also cut it from your desktop website?
  • If your content is confusing, shouldn’t you re-write or re-format the whole site’s content, not just the mobile site?

Simplicity is the key to all good web design, not just mobile web design.

“Your mobile site should probably have less stuff than your desktop site right now, not because it’s mobile but because your desktop site is probably full of crap.”

- Josh Clark, as quoted on The Next Web

Myth 2: Mobile web visitors are always “on the go”

This myth is linked to the one above it. So if you skipped that section, go back and read it first.

Many businesses or web designers make the dangerous assumption that “people don’t do [insert common website function] on mobile sites.” But we use our smartphones in all kinds of circumstances - on the couch while watching T.V., in the bathroom, at the airport during a layover.

Therefore, it is dangerous to group all mobile visitors into always being “on the go.”

Here are some stats and facts you can use to battle this myth:

  • People apply for college on smartphones – According to Sara Watcher-Boettcher in Content Everywhere, once Arizona State University made their application easy to use on mobile devices, “admissions applications from smartphone users started rolling in.”
  • 68% of consumers’ smartphone use happens at home – Contrary to the belief that mobile users are “on the go”, a study on the Harvard Business Review shows that most smartphone use is at home (where we could easily reach our computer if we wanted to.)
  • 77% of mobile searches happen while at home - According to Google’s stats, only 17% of searches happen while “on the go.” This seems to confirm the stat above.
  • 90% of people start a task on one device and then pick it up on another device - As Karen McGrane points out, we use devices interchangeably. So it becomes very important that your website visitors can find the same content on your site, regardless of the device they’re using.
  • 29% of U.S. consumers research products and services on a smartphone before purchasing – Smartphone users are researching your products and services prior to making a purchase, according to a study by Cisco. So you better have the information they’re looking for.

Myth 3: People shop more on mobile apps than mobile sites

Mobile website vs. mobile app is a debate that has been raging for a long time in web design circles. But the best option is different for every business.

Often in a discussion about which is better, someone will issue a blanket statement that “people shop on mobile apps, not mobile websites.”

However, this is unfounded. According to eMarketer, 14% of U.S. consumers prefer shopping on a mobile site, compared to just 4% on a smartphone app. The top choice was still on a website using a PC or laptop at 87%.

Also, only 17% of the top U.S. retailers have a mobile shopping app.

In addition, 87% of tablet owners use their devices for shopping with half of them shopping from their tablet at least weekly.

These stats make it abundantly clear that a) people use smartphones and tablets to shop and b) the preferred method is your website.

What You Don’t Know (About Mobile) Can Hurt You

In order to take advantage of the flood of smartphone and tablet users, you must know the truth behind how people use these devices. Otherwise, your frustrated web visitors could end up being driven to your competitor’s sites because of your poor mobile website. So let’s recap what we’ve learned:

  • Anything a visitor can access on your desktop website should be accessible from a phone or tablet, as well.
  • People do use their phones while “on the go.” But most of their use still comes while sitting at home.
  • Mobile sites are preferred over separate mobile apps for shopping. But most online shoppers still prefer to make purchases from their desktop.

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