Can I Take Your Order? Mobile Computing and the Information Drive Thru

The invention of the drive thru restaurant has changed the face of dining as we know it.  Instead of going into a restaurant, sitting down, and dining, consumers can now pull in, place their order and drive off in a matter of minutes. As a result of this change in the nature of dining many restaurants have had to change the type of food they serve and their methods of producing it.  This makes tasty and convenient food easy and fast to obtain for anyone who has a car.  The Smartphone and tablet have created a similar phenomenon in the information industry.  Those who own mobile computing devices, now access small bits of information they need on demand where ever they are.  Their behavior is different than other computer users and their needs differ from desktop users.  Just like restaurants adjust their menus and cooking practices to speed up the time from the initial order to the time the customer pulls out of the parking lot, webmasters must learn to produce content that will effectively meet the needs of their mobile audience in the fastest, most efficient manner possible.  Below are some tips to create content that will serve your mobile users well:

  1. Keep your information “bite sized”- Small screens and the “I’ll just check this out real quick” mentality of mobile device users means that whatever you put on your website needs to be short and to the point.  You should use bullet points where possible, and keep the text per bullet brief too.  Also, keep in mind what users might be trying to do with your website and focus on putting that content up front, in an easy to read format.  For instance, if a mobile user is looking for a restaurant’s website, they are likely looking for its location and hours of operation.  By putting the hours, the street address, and a map to the restaurant on the front page you have met the user’s needs quickly and helped drive business to your location.
  2. Consider computing limitations- Mobile devices do not have as much computing power as most desktops.  Therefore, there are certain types of content that work poorly on mobile devices and others that won’t work at all.  When creating your website keep the limited computing capacity of mobile devices in mind and watch out for these problems:
    1. Flash Player- Most mobile devices don’t have flash player and it cannot be downloaded.  If your website requires a rich media element you can use some of the new media tags built into HTML5.
    2. Picture size and type- Using the wrong formats or pictures with large file sizes slows down the loading time of your site.  Convert your picture files into file formats that will condense their size and use responsive design elements to help your photo adapt to the screen size.
    3. No plug-ins- Many mobile devices will not run plug-ins and users will be unable to download them to their devices.  Skip the use of plug-ins and keep it simple.  As an added bonus desktop users who use public computers will also thank you as they can’t download the plug-ins either.
    4. Design for small screen issues- When you create your websites layout there are a number of visual elements you can tweak to help mobile users have a good experience.  For instance, large fonts on a high contrast background (such as black font on a white background) help with legibility on the smaller screen.  You will also need to design with large margins and make buttons larger than usual to accommodate touch screen devices.
    5. Test, test, test- Regardless of how you think your website looks on the larger screen of your desktop you will not know how it performs on mobile devices without first testing the website for mobile compatibility.  You don’t have to own a mobile device to test for mobile there are a number of websites out there that will test your website for mobile readiness:
      a. W3C Mobile ValidatorThis tool evaluates a website’s code to detect possible issues for mobile browsers and give you a report of items you need to fix.
      b. Ready.MobiAnother code validator, Ready.mobi takes your code and produces a mobile fitness report.
      c. Google Mobile TesterThis tool formats your page for mobile browsers, so you can get a look at the formatting changes you will see on a mobile device.
      d. iPad PeekThis tool shows you what your website will look like on an iPad screen.

 

Using these tools helps you get a sense of what your users will see when they go to your device.  If these tools do not meet your needs you can Google “mobile content testing” and you will find a wide variety of tools at your disposal for free.   In addition, if you do have a mobile device it would behoove you to visit your site periodically on your own device to make sure everything is still working well.

Mobile devices have changed the way we access, use, and process information the same way that the drive-thru changed the way we eat out.  Preparing content for those changes will make your website more competitive and deliver more value to your customers.   If you are looking to develop a mobile content strategy, but aren’t sure where to begin, contact us here at Nourtek Solutions.  We have a team of skilled developers who can help you find a mobile strategy that fits your needs and budget.

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