How to prepare for the development of your corporate mobile website

How to prepare for the development of your corporate mobile website

You need a mobile website. Now!

With mobiles set to surpass desktops as the main access point to the internet sometime next year, the reign of your desktop website as the hub of your corporate communications is coming to an end. As you have no control over how your audiences choose to access your digital content, you need to make the right provisions and ensure that they enjoy the same high-quality brand experience regardless of the platform, screen size or device that they use.

Currently only a small number of companies have optimised their digital content for smartphones, but the number is set to grow exponentially over the next couple of years. So act now and you can still beat your competition.

But where do you start?

First come the insights

To maximise ROI, your mobile website should be the product of an informed process that is based on insight. There is nothing special about a mobile-specific insight generation process so we limit our review to a list of areas that should be explored:

  • Requirements from your internal and external website audiences
  • Business requirements
  • State of the market and your competition
  • Technical requirements
  • Future-proofing

So if you have done all the above, the insights generated are likely to be pointing to one of the following courses of action:

Option 1: Create a replica of your desktop website

How it works

You create a mobile website that mirrors your desktop website. This means indiscriminately lifting and shifting all the content, functionality, structure, hierarchies and visual design and optimising them for mobile screens. Technically, there are two ways to achieve this, but we will discuss them in detail in Part 2.

When it’s the best option

Such an option should be considered when any of the scenarios below are true:

  • Mission: Your desktop website is on no particular acquisition or retention mission, probably because marketing, sales and client management are taken care of elsewhere (i.e. campaigns, extranet, specialist websites, social media, etc.). If it was, then you would have to take a much more targeted approach.
  • Audience: Your mobile audiences will benefit from having access to all the content and functionality currently on your desktop website. If for example your main audiences include prospects, press, partners and job seekers then you probably wouldn’t want to offer them only a limited overview of your company.
  • Technology: Your desktop website does not include any functionality too complex to optimise for small screens, long forms or other interactive content.
  • ROI: The effort and cost required to split the desktop content into smaller, better targeted mobile websites, or to create bespoke mobile content outweigh any potential benefits such approaches might deliver.
  • Process: The internal hoops you had to jump through when creating the desktop website (politics, conflicting views, bickering stakeholders, delays) are still vivid in your memory. The thought of having to go through the same exhausting process for your mobile website fills you with dread.

Pros and cons

Do it:

  • It’s easier and quicker to plan. It helps you bypass the whole content definition stage (and maybe the requirements gathering process as well) and fast-forwards you to the page architecture stage where your desktop content is mapped against mobile screens.
  • This fast-forwarding and bypassing business removes a big chunk of the costs associated with planning – although this reduction is probably cancelled by the higher production costs likely to occur from developing a fully singing and dancing mobile website.
  • Both your desktop and mobile websites share all content updates saving maintenance time and effort.

Don’t do it:

  • It’s a missed opportunity to clean up your act. Any potential problems your desktop website has such as legacy content, unnecessary complexity, confusing structure, inefficient forms, uninspiring tone of voice, or poor quality graphics and images, are likely to find their way into your mobile website as well.
  • The weight of the content might affect performance on mobile handsets.
  • It’s a solution latched onto the past and not a gateway into the future.

Two examples

The Shell corporate mobile website (needs to be viewed on a mobile browser) is a replica of the desktop website. Both desktop and mobile websites share the same URL.

The GDF Suez corporate mobile website (needs to be viewed on a mobile browser) indiscriminately mirrors the desktop content regardless of the complexity of the content. Both desktop and mobile websites share the same URL.


Option 2: Create a slimmed down version of your desktop website

How it works

You trim your desktop content, structure and design down to the (important) basics and you create a slimmer, simpler and more focused mobile website.

When it’s the best option

Such an option should be considered if any of the scenarios below are true:

  • Audience: The insights that emerged from your initial research clearly indicate that your mobile audiences will benefit from specific content and functionality.
  • Cost: You don’t have the budget to pay for a complete replica of your desktop website.
  • Sanitization: You want to solve problems that would be too expensive to fix on your desktop site, such as unnecessary complexity, tone of voice, legacy content, etc. The mobile website gives you an opportunity to launch something much more current and probably in line with your organisations latest communication requirements.
  • Experimentation: You are interested in finding out how your mobile audiences interact with your mobile content, which parts they find the most valuable and what leaves them indifferent. A small mobile website would give you the flexibility to make quick changes and test different content, structures, menus, highlights or even designs.

Pros and cons

Do it:

  • Your mobile website will feature a simple, clean, fast interface with only the most important content; who can argue with that?
  • You can use your mobile website as a stepping stone towards the development of your next generation desktop website by applying design, performance and user behaviour learnings.

Don’t do it:

  • Harder to plan, as you need to be selective with your content. In order to decide which bits stay and which go will require either a lot of guesswork or research as discussed above.
  • You now have two websites to worry about when it comes to content updates and general management.
  • There is an argument that mobile users will feel short-changed if they are in an exploratory mode and you serve them only fragments of your desktop content.
  • The more targeted the content becomes and the more it addresses specific user needs, the more it makes sense to create a mobile app that offers a much slicker experience – but also comes with its own drawbacks. If for example your desktop website’s recruitment section has a large following, then instead of trying to squeeze all the great content into a mobile website you can create a mobile app dedicated to recruitment.

Two examples

The BASF corporate website and its mobile equivalent offer completely different user experiences. The different menu hierarchy on the mobile layout suggests an effort to contextualise mobile content.

The Horizon corporate website and its mobile sibling maintain some design consistency to maximise brand recognition and recall. As with the BASF example, the menu items listed are different suggesting a rational approach to creating the content structure.

Option 3: Focus on your mobile offering (you need to have one)

How it works

You create a mobile website whose main purpose is to promote, support and allow access to your mobile offering, whilst keeping all peripheral content to a minimum, or only available on user request.

When it’s the best option

Such an option should be considered if any of the scenarios below are true:

  • You provide your customers with a web-based mobile service .
  • You provide your customers with products and services in the form of mobile apps.

Pros (there are no cons)

Do it:

  • Such a mobile website will maximise awareness of your mobile offering, drive traffic, encourage adoption and boost revenue. A no-brainer really!

Two examples

The Barclays website and its mobile sibling offer completely different propositions and experience, The mobile website is a lot more targeted and focused on a handful of clearly listed tasks.

The Commonwealth Bank website features a typical homepage for a bank catering for a large number of user needs, whereas the mobile website (needs to be viewed on a mobile browser) whose main job is to promote the bank’s mobile applications and drive traffic to the relevant app stores. So if mobile apps are part of your main offering then it makes sense that your mobile website is built around promoting them.

Option 4: A shallow mobile website extensively linked to pages of your desktop website

How it works

You create a mobile homepage (or a homepage plus level 2 pages) designed for mobile screens, but all links and further navigation point to pages of your desktop website. With a bit of luck the user will be able to access your desktop content, but it will take a lot or screen pinching, tapping and swiping – and probably cursing.

When it’s the best option

  • It’s never the best option. If your budget is negligible and you can only afford to create a single, or a handful of pages, then it might make sense. Ideally, you want your mobile website to deliver some valuable content and not just links, in which case a simplified version of your desktop website (Option 2) would be your best bet. If you are thinking of just creating a mobile homepage with links to your desktop website, then stop! Your mobile homepage will deliver zero value to your users; it will cause unpleasant surprise and frustration when they realise that your mobile website is nothing but a veneer.
  • This is not a solution we come across often. However the idea of keeping mobile content thin and providing the main content via the desktop website has come up in a number of meetings (we always manage to gently kill it) so when we saw the Oracle example below we became certain that a number of organisations must be considering it.

An example

The Oracle mobile website (needs to be viewed on a mobile browser) is just a homepage with a collection of links to desktop pages.

Option 5: Start fresh

All options mentioned above describe how you can plug a mobile website to your existing desktop website. None of them discusses re-developing your desktop website alongside your mobile.

Starting fresh, describes the approach and not the outcome; it’s based less on research and user requirements and more on a deeper understanding of the synergies between different platforms, technologies and devices and the benefits they can deliver.

In theory, you can develop all your websites independently and still deliver the same user experience you would if you developed them simultaneously. Practically though, the latter approach has a number of advantages. We shall review these advantages in Part 2 when we discuss in detail the options available when it comes to design and technical production.

Test, learn, apply

Regardless of the route you choose to take, it is fundamental that you treat your mobile offering as a process and not a project. Whereas a project has a beginning, a middle and an end, a process requires ongoing involvement, testing and refinement. The proliferation of mobile phones has made marketing, communications and technology very exciting, but also challenging. The world has become an enormous testing lab with new products and services being launched all the time, against which human behaviour is scrutinised, analysed, rationalised, quantified and influenced. Your mobile website is your chance to create your own testing lab, incorporate your whole digital communications and kick off your perpetual cycle of testing, learning and applying.

0 Comments

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

display:none;