Optimizing Your Site for the Mobile User

There are multiple parties involved in the B2B purchase decision. While several parties have the ability to influence the purchase decision (e.g., purchasing personnel), those with the ability to make the decision are typically very busy, often spending significant time on the road, in airports, in meetings. They may not be tethered to their laptop, but most are inseparable from an iPhone or BlackBerry.

While these decision-makers may not initiate purchase research, they often receive purchase recommendations of others via email, and these emails contain links to sellers’ sites. What could be easier than clearing some emails or doing a couple quick searches with Google Mobile while waiting for the next plane? In the next 10 minutes, an executive could form her initial perceptions of your firm based on what she sees on her iPhone. Are you happy with what she’ll find? Do you even know what she’ll find?

Years ago, we were finishing the build of a new, optimized site for a client. The client wanted the site’s primary navigation to be in Flash. So we incorporated other ways for search engines to get to the site’s content from the home page. We also had plenty of html-based intra-site linking within the copy of the site’s pages. One night, I wanted to check the team’s progress on the site. I grabbed my BlackBerry. I quickly found that the only way a mobile user could actually get into the site from the home page was through html links for things like the site map and privacy policy. While I could get to all the content, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, to say the least. The next day, we began to make changes to speak to the mobile user.

Last spring, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study on the use of mobile devices. As of December 2007, 19% of respondents had used their mobile device to access the internet; 7% said they did so regularly, on a typical day. Certainly, these numbers have gone up dramatically since then, and they’ll continue to do so.

If you don’t know what mobile users will experience when they visit your site, you should take the next five minutes to find out. How does your site display? Are there features of your site that don’t even load? Is your site’s primary content easily accessible to mobile users?
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