Everyone’s talking about mobile. If we’re not talking about apps, we’re talking about the phones themselves and how awesome the physical hardware is. This and the phenomenal rise of iOS and Android has contributed to app addiction in my opinion?
Companies, brands and people believe they must have an app for their thing. They absolutely must have an app for their restaurant so you can see the menu, their business isn’t complete without an app for their web software or they will miss out on sales if they don’t have an app for their car dealership.
I’m sorry to break it to you. Most of the time these beliefs are wrong. And they will likely cost you more money than the better alternative.
Real mobile friendly websites
When I use the term ‘Real’ I mean not just a box ticking exercise but really thinking about the way a user wants to use your site. Thinking about, where they are when they use it, what time of day it is, and what other things are going on around them. It’s a set of considerations we’ve been using to create Go2 BrandsTM at Bright Blue Day for a while.
You see, on smartphones, people are much more interested in utility a lot of the time. They don’t need all the detail up front, they just want what’s important right there and then. The rest can be later if they really need to dig deeper.
All these things can be really well catered for using a mobile website at a fraction of the cost of a mobile app, more than 80% of the time because the biggest thing native apps give you is access to the phones hardware and speed if the content is heavy… both of which are not often needed.
Plus content is easier to manage a mobile website because you don’t have to push app updates all the time, people don’t have to download your app before they can get the information and you can still have that all important space on the home screen of their device using home screen bookmarks and correctly set icons.
It just means you have to consider a few things more carefully, like…
- What content you show – not just squeezing the same content onto a smaller screen
- Probably re-defining the layout
- Paying attention to font size
- Using swipe and other touch functions where appropriate
- Keeping it fast – making it feel as fast as a native app
- Conditionally swapping out content depending on screen size
- Remembering to add icons for home screen bookmarks
- Testing across as many physical mobile devices as you can get your hands on (the Open Device Lab (ODL) in Bournemouth helps us with that, and Lab Case is great for getting started if you don’t have an ODL nearby).
Coffee and my phone
I love coffee like any self respecting geek, and as you’d expect I never go anywhere without my phone. So when an email droped into my inbox from Pact coffee asking me to complete a little survey, I obliged.
Pactcoffee.com have one of the best ordering and account setup processes that I’ve seen. Its slick, speedy and straight to the point without unessacery distractions. This is partly what got me hooked on having lovely fresh coffee beans delivered to my house on bi-weekly basis. A perfect example of mobile website over mobile app. But I never expected their survey to be just as awesome.
They’d sent me a personalised link to a survey created on Typeform.
I was expecting to see a regular old form that didn’t really work on mobile very well. I expected to have to pinch and zoom a lot, probably give up, and end up doing it on a laptop later. I expected font sizes to be wrong and I expected the layout to suit a large laptop screen rather than my tiny iPhone.
That’s not what I found.
Typeform have gone out of their way to make their forms simple, clean and o so easy to use even on a mobile device. You can zip through questions in no time flat.
Now Typeform have a particularly simple approach to their desktop survey forms so its a little easier to translate onto mobile, but even so they have managed to do all of the things I mentioned above.
You get a little status bar pinned to the bottom of the screen to help you see how far you have left to go. You can easily skip questions with the buttons, or you can just swipe up and down to scroll the survey (not just scrolling the page but making you feel like its a native app). Questions are grouped up with the group title getting pinned to the top of the screen so you remember where you are and the little helpful prompts are everywhere.
Here’s some screenshots of the survey from my iPhone 5.
I believe in taking the time for mobile
It’s easy to do a box ticking exercise when it comes to mobile websites. It’s much more time consuming to to make your site experience perfect for mobile. In my experience this comes down to three things, 1) time constraints on businesses wanting stuff live now, 2) budget constraints (it could easily double the cost of some projects) and 3) the sheer ability of the people designing and building it when it comes to mobile tech and content.
If you can overcome these three, you will produce truly great mobile sites and applications like typeform have here, and this makes the mobile web a better place for all of us.
Websites on your smartphone become just as great to use as they are on a full laptop. How does your website really work for your customers on a mobile device?
To prove my point… I filled out the survey a couple of times to see how well parts of it really worked under closer scrutiny and then spent the effort to write this post just because I thought it was great (ok I’m a special case because I like this sort of thing).
Get a bag of great coffee and sign up a free Typeform account
One final thing… if you love freshly roasted coffee delivered to your door, get a bag of their lovely stuff for just £1 from pactcoffee.com with the code…
“ HELLO ”
And then head on over to typeform.com , coffee in hand, to get yourself a free account.
Edit 4th August 2014
A good friend of mine, Andrew Bonello, rather helpfully pointed out this awesome little process you can follow to easily decide if you need a native mobile app or a super awesome mobile friendly website. Here’s the best bit…