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Become the Number One Destination for Your Mobile Audience March 11th, 2013

This is the transcript of my presentation at Online Information in 2011 - a long time ago in mobile development techniques. However many of the key points still stand particularly regarding making the most of the opportunities that result from an ever increasing proportion of your audience connecting via mobile.

Working at agencies in the mid to late 90’s often meant received phone calls asking did we do web sites – we said yes sure we do them.

We followed this up with questions about the audience, the messaging to be incorporated – the reason why the site was needed – the answer, it didn’t matter the managing director wants one … and … by next week!

Not long ago mobile was about just being available on mobile devices.

Now that requirement has very rapidly become the demand to be available on all mobile devices, the UI needs to follow the brand guidelines that were developed for the website.

To understand just how rapidly mobile has become a core requirement we can consider what we observed whilst working with News International. Here we witnessed how only three years ago mobile was managed from what can only be described as a broom cupboard by a junior project manager. Move forward to 18 months ago and Rupert Murdoch was involved on a regular basis.

Websites today are very complex, having many demands from across your business and importantly high demands from your audience. For those that have current projects, is mobile a requirement?

Is mobile the reason for the project or just a nice to have?

Does mobile really mean an App?

Those looking at mobile web have the best chance of success, but you need to manage expectations. Having spoken to a number of our clients over the past year about what mobile means for them it is clear that budgets are tight.

As described earlier mobile has rapidly become very important with high demands and equally high expectations. So naturally the main question is how do you get the most value.

If we were to lose the term ‘mobile’ from the conversations then quite a lot of the problem goes away. By removing the term mobile we remove the classic need to ‘formulate a strategy’ for that. This might seem quite controversial and goes against common anxieties that arise if you don’t have a strategy for mobile.

Instead ask yourself three questions

  1. Do I need to consider mobile?
  2. Do I need an app?
  3. If you don’t need an app, what do you need?

The answer to number one is yes for all of you. For number two the answer is yes if you manage tasks or do something other than delivering content, but no if your main focus is content and publishing information. Therefore to answer number three: you’ll need to work on optimising what you already have and importantly what you already know your users demand.

Answering these three questions makes mobile a tactic not a strategy – do you form a strategy for each new browser release?

By answering the previous three questions, in many cases this means “just doing things”. Designing mobile using traditional design methods often proves costly. You’ll end up having to sign off many ‘versions’ of the same page to cater for all the variations in screen size and orientation.

To overcome this means prototyping as soon as possible.

Prototyping is great; it creates a shared understanding across your team and provides a reality check on those high expectations whilst at the same times offers a live platform to test your content within a mobile context.

At Media Pro in November this year (2011) we heard from Belron (Auto glass). They have a policy of “just trying things”. They admit lots of these things fail but the 10% that works, works really well – their mobile offering delivered a ROI in less than 1 week with little or no marketing.

Now if we compare that to The Good Pub Guide. They spoke of a having made a few apps and talked at length about what they ‘might do’. The Good Pub Guide have a lot of competition already for the core of their offering namely pub reviews. Like many niche publishers individuals or small groups can steal an audience in a very short time as they are often agile and fast enough to “just do things”.

Strategy and Insight are different.

I’ve suggested that strategizing is an expensive path to follow for delivering to mobile with the budgetary constraints that we often see when talking to clients.

What is worth taking time to understand is the insight that analytics offers. This data is invaluable when trying to understand what your audience already expect access to and therefore where you need to focus any initial effort.

Most of you will have analytics installed on your site. Most are probably running analytics on the client side e.g. Google analytics that rely on JavaScript. Some will be using server side analytics.

You’re the lucky ones; you’ve had the ability to understand true mobile device usage as many mobile devices can’t run the JavaScript analytics relies upon.

We see that once mobile specific analytical tools are installed a truer picture of mobile usage is seen. For all site owners additional unique users are a good thing so it’s worth considering installing an analytics tool that is capable of capturing that last few percentage of unique users already visiting your site.

So what’s important to consider when looking at your analytics? Two considerations to start with are bounce rates and new visits. Bounce rates are important especially if you charge for content, users are demanding connected experiences across all touch points. New visits are an indicator of the percentage of new visits coming from mobile.

Mobile First

Some of you may have heard of ‘Mobile First’, some of your partners and agencies have probably been saying it’s how they’d ‘design’ your mobile services.

So what does it mean? It’s three things: growth, constraints and capabilities. Or, put another way: opportunities, focus and innovation.

‘Opportunities’ refer to the commercial opportunities of delivering your content to the many 100’s of connected devices that exist today and those that will be under next year’s Christmas tree that haven’t even been prototyped yet.

The ‘Focus’ that prototyping will demonstrate to you in there’s not much room for waffle on a small screen device.

Thirdly the ‘Innovation’ - all the opportunities offered by interacting with a device that knows where it is, has a camera and can send and receive the images it takes.

It’s acknowledging that a mobile device will very soon (between 2012-2014 dependant who you ask) be the primary method used to access your content.

This acknowledgement implies being future friendly and again why authoring a strategy is a fruitless exercise as we can’t predict the future but we can be ready for it. But what does being ready actually mean?

What you already know

Targeting opportunities, applying focus and being innovative may require some changes to you business. But I assure you there will be some people within your organisation who are all too aware of these opportunities that are slipping by, you need to discover them and tap into their insights.

This is a practice and solution that Digirati develop for a number of our clients.

You should already know what motivates your audience to return to your site on a regular basis and why they choose to spend their time with you. For almost all of you this reason is your content. This is what differentiates you from the competition.

So the future is not some sexy new look and feel, a rebrand or building an app for the latest device app store. It’s more likely going to be ensuring that your content is available to whatever device requests it, that’s probably going to be stored in a database, managed by a CMS and delivered through an API via cloud services.

You are responsible for the data and content called upon to present your business or brand across all digital channels.

These channels have a context. Where and how your content will be consumed is difficult to define. Context or Mobile Context used to be considered as ‘on the go’; ‘short periods’; ‘little focus’ and basic tasks. This is all changing, with powerful devices and wireless connections many of the historic ‘constraints’ are now non-existent.

So how can we understand what our context is?

Observation, or to give it its correct term, Ethnographic research, is easy here in London or any large city, it could be watching people on the back of the bus, the train, home or even in a coffee shop.

Google spent a great deal of time and effort watching how and why regular people used their smart phones. Not just Android phones, but all smart phones. The company even had employees “shadow” users, visiting them at their homes and workplaces to watch how they interacted with their devices.

Your team ‘on location’ should perform observation together with testing. ebay found that sending the developers out on location to test what they were building provided insight into real world usage – particularly the constraints enforced by connectivity issues.

Whilst observing usage you may start to see some concerning scenarios playing out, particularly from a commercial aspect.

If you don’t provide an acceptable reading experience users will be creating one for themselves – and that means without all your clutter – that’s marketing, up sell and all the techniques that make your business money.

Using the concept of ‘Focus’ is nothing new, if you run Adword campaigns then you’ll be aware of the recommendations for creating high performing landing pages. One of these is focus; if you have no clutter and Google reward you when ranking your advert. So why is almost every other page on your site littered with clutter?

Users already ‘filter’ your content, Safari has had its Reader functionality for a while and it has been introduced on iOS5 devices so that what I save to my reading list on my laptop is synced via the cloud to my phone. With other services such as Instapaper, Flipboard and Readable, the content I save can be delivered to whatever device I choose.

Creating the perfect reading experience is where the FT invested a great deal of time whilst designing their html app replacement and where Google invests a great deal of time crafting a superior reading experience.

Having the opportunity to Focus on the reason your audience actively returns to you opens the opportunity of supporting the concept of ‘connected things’. This means one account, basket or state across all devices, what I’ve read, what I’ve bookmarked, where I left off. Having a seamless cross-channel experience allows for the Start Stop scenario – The Amazon Kindle delivers this across multiple devices.

Many reports have indicated that customers now demand seamless cross-channel experiences, without API’s and sound data modelling they are complex and costly but today expected.

We have reports from the likes of webcredible, Ernst and Young and econcultancy that all deliver the same message: users demand joined up experiences when interacting with your brand.

When asked 90% of companies consider the multichannel experience to be important, organizational structure is the most significant barrier to success.

So once you’ve connected your internal structure - how do you deliver a seamless experience?

Techniques for Delivering to Mobile

There are a few concepts that underpin mobile delivery. To get a good understanding of these we highly recommend that someone in your business invest some time to review the opportunities available when using html5, responsive web design and mobile first design as a methodology to plan new digital service design. Admittedly it’s not everything you need to know - but they are the cornerstones of being able to deliver to many connected devices, mobile or other.

You may ask why should you spend the time understanding what’s possible today if that’s what you pay your agency for? The quality of advice being offered by agencies varies greatly. Some of the comments we’ve heard over the past year when we’ve asked to what level has mobile been considered has left us dumfounded. Many design agencies are only concerned with how things look rather than how things work; usability and real user expectations are neglected.

You need to understand the opportunities available if only so you can have an open discussion with your in house team or when evaluating agencies you may partner with.

At Digirati our best clients are those who have made it their business to understand what mobile means for their audience because:

  • You know your audience, you know your content, you need to know what you can do with it.
  • But most of all, your customers and audience are human; they demand a quality service not an application.
  • You as a business are ones that have the ability to succeed when delivering to mobile because,
  • You have the customer insight.
  • You have the analytical data.
  • You have observed where and when users access your content.
  • And you now think customers not technology.

Mobile is a big opportunity and it’s there for the taking.

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