Site Optimization for Mobile: Defer the Big Project

phone image "We need a mobile redesign for our site."I’ve heard similar comments from several marketers lately that concern me a bit, so I wanted to post a bit of a warning, and of course provide some alternative thoughts.

The gist of the comments was that these marketers knew that their sites weren’t yet optimized for mobile, and that they viewed that fact as a problem that could only be solved via a major project aimed at optimizing the entire site for mobile devices.

One of my clients has a particular landing page where the known, major source of traffic is mobile. Instead of talking about building a mobile-optimized landing page and experience, they commented that they knew they needed to optimize their site for mobile, but it just wasn’t the highest priority development work. I could tell they were talking about a project and not thinking in terms of continuous, incremental improvements.

This is dangerous thinking for a few reasons:

  • Viewing mobile optimization as a “project” means it then has to be weighed against all the other projects on the roadmap
  • Taking on a project of this scope (optimizing an entire site for mobile) will either take a large amount of internal resource work, or will necessitate hiring yet another specialist/agency
  • Due to mobile’s small (but rapidly growing) percentage of total traffic, it’s difficult to justify the cost of optimizing an entire site
  • Sometimes lower priority projects simply never…get…done!
  • Project mentality misses the fact that a few changes on key pages can make vast improvements in the mobile user experience

When I looked at their landing page on a mobile device, I quickly discovered that key persuasive content was contained in a modal popup. Clicking the call to action to “learn more” about the content in the modal popup showed me a huge issue: the popup was automatically centering in a fixed position off of the phone’s smaller screen. You simply couldn’t see the content on a phone!

Simply detecting a mobile visitor on that landing page and replacing a modal popup with a push message dialog native to the device would make a huge difference in their conversion rate…and probably make them a lot more money. I’m not a mobile development expert, so I don’t know the true scope of a “fix” like that, but it’s definitely not a project, and it’s way cheaper than optimizing an entire conversion path or an entire site.

Just like in conversion rate optimization, there is “low hanging fruit” for mobile that can be changed on your site without a redesign or a large-scale development effort. Picking a few of these pieces of fruit can really make a difference for your growing segment of mobile traffic.

Now, I’m not saying that websites shouldn’t be “optimized for mobile,” because they should. But when it’s a matter of priorities, I’m saying that an incremental change approach is a great interim solution for marketers until it’s the right time to take on a whole-site mobile optimization effort.

When is the “right time”? Keep a close eye on your web analytics. Segment your mobile traffic, and watch the trend over time. For most sites, that segment is growing very quickly. Decide what percentage of your total traffic needs to be mobile before you spend the money on a mobile site optimization. That percentage threshold will be different for every business, but it’s coming.

Buy yourself some time by making a few key pages, paths, or features of your site mobile-friendly. Then when the time comes to make the whole site mobile-tastic, you’ll be prepared!

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