Mobile Misconceptions

Back in business school, I attended a presentation by some marketing alums working at Kimberly-Clark. They told us that, early in their careers, the company preferred to have men working in their feminine products division rather than women.

Why would a major consumer products company staff their marketing teams with people who had no direct experience with the products that they were marketing and weren’t a target audience for their product promotion?

Simple. That’s exactly why they put them there.

The reality is there are products that are very personal and that we get very attached to. On the outside, you’d think it’s good to have a personal connection with a product you are marketing. But the risk is that we can easily extrapolate our own personal experience with the category (along with all of the preconceptions, beliefs and emotional connections that we bring with us) as being what people generally think and feel about the products.

Smartphones can be a little like that.  They’re not called “Apple fan boys” for nothing, after all.

Those of us who work in digital and live and breathe tech – let’s just refer to ourselves as “geeks” to keep things simple – have really strong feelings about mobile, smartphones, apps and the mobile Web in general. We bring those strong feelings and the opinions that they spawn into our work in serving a growing base of mobile users.

But sometimes, we geeks are just wrong.

We geeks have been using smartphones since the turn of the century. We’ve been through 8 or 9 different phones over the years. We had data plans when our neighbors didn’t even know that there were data plans. We jailbreak phones and do all sorts of craziness to them.

Which means that we’re really nothing like our target consumer audience.

So we have lots of preconceptions, or misconceptions, about how our target audience uses the mobile Web. In the early days, our phones weren’t very good at surfing the Web. Sure you could do it, but lots of sites didn’t work, screens were painfully small to read very much, data on the devices was slow and expensive. Therefore, there were things that you grabbed because you really needed them right now, and you waited until you got home to do other things on a “real computer.”

So when we started building mobile-optimized sites, it’s no wonder that we took a small subset of content and functionality to present on mobile.

Those constraints just aren’t as… constraining as once they were. Screens are much larger, bandwidth plentiful, and most mobile Web users never experienced a time when they’d wait until they got home to get anything.

Today’s consumers want a mobile-optimized experience that includes every piece of content and functionality of your primary site.

Geonetric’s answer to that is Responsive Design (Check out the video below for a great explanation!)  Responsive Web design is the approach by which your website, including all of the content and all of the functionality, should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.  The site queries the browser to find out its size and capabilities, and then adapts the presentation to browser.

The goal is to create the ultimate experience for each user regardless of how they choose to connect with us. That means that mobile phone users get a site presentation optimized for a phone. iPad users get a bigger, more visual site presentation.

The key is flexibility. Think about the range of devices available today – small smartphones, smartphones so large that they barely fit in your hand, eBook readers and large tablets like the iPad. A good responsively-designed site adapts across all of them and will also work on new devices such as car entertainment systems and Internet connected refrigerators.

Responsive sites don’t just adapt based on the size of the screen, but to a number of other capabilities as well. Does the user have a mouse?  If not, those mouse-over menus aren’t much good. Perhaps the browser supports touchscreen actions like swipe and pinch that can be used as part of the navigation paradigm.

The results? Better user experience, improved task completion levels, more online conversions and happier site visitors.

In addition, responsive design provides a big boost to search engine optimization. Why, you ask?

  • No duplicate content
  • Mobile searchers want mobile sites
  • No division of inbound links

So it’s time to re-think our mobile strategies based on what our consumers want, what they’re using and what they need to engage with us now and into the future. Responsive design is that future.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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