Mobility and User Intent: Clear Pathways

Facebooking, commute planning, tweeting, booking tickets, reading restaurant reviews, analyzing baseball results. With all this information at our fingertips, mobile users can’t be slowed down by clumsy navigation and complex calls-to-action (CTAs). As marketers respond to the evolution of the multi-screen customer, user experience is continuing to get compromised in the name of content and functionality.

The challenge is that few companies make the distinction between showing less information and offering less information. Content and, more importantly, CTAs need to be better prioritized and streamlined – or, when possible, automated. The quick and awkward fix to mobile info overload is just simply allowing users to zoom in or zoom out. Microsoft has taken an interesting step lately in trying to make its Windows 8 interface and Windows Mobile interface look and function the same way. Based on current feedback and reviews, this hasn’t proven particularly effective – and it would be impractical for websites to take this same approach.

The better idea is to simply take a step back and look at why someone is going to your website on her phone in the first place. What is she trying to solve for – and how does knowing where she is and the device she is on impact this experience? With that perspective, you can consider automation, streamline paths, or even driving a click to a phone call. A smartphone, is, after all, a phone.

Why Are You Here? Simple vs. Complex User Interactions

It didn’t take long before companies realized that their sites were more difficult to navigate on a mobile device. Eventually that gave way to a specifically created mobile version of that website and, in some cases, the app. At the very least, companies should know that they simply cannot recreate the desktop or laptop experience on your phone. More advanced experiences are starting to specifically tailor the journey to performing a discrete set of actions effectively rather than broad exploration of all content.

Commerce is a great place to start. Bringing up the home page to Amazon.com on a desktop computer shows a pretty wide variety of options and recommendations. Getting all this information onto a mobile phone screen is not only difficult but unnecessary. A 2012 article on Search Engine Land sums this up pretty well: “The small screen size and unnatural keypad…means that the rate of exploration is low; users typically have specific search goals on the mobile.” Therefore, on the mobile Amazon site the first things you see, which are also large and easy to click on, are deals, the wish list, and search. Design choices like this aren’t accidental.

Pathways Are Key – Ease Over Style and Substance

With users no longer impressed by simply having the ability to do something, we need to be able to do it easily and quickly. Amazon took its mobile design a step further, realizing that the slowest part of the buying process was actually entering your information. Amazon’s solution: if you sign in, you can purchase something in one tap of your finger. The “1-Click” buying feature takes all the complexity out of the order, enabling faster commerce and a more streamlined experience.

Even giving money to the Red Cross has become a simple “text 90999 to donate $10.” Much easier than filling out a donation form, and faster than calling a call center. By tying the text to a payment, you are removing an often painful step of completing the shopping cart experience.

When smartphones were brand new, we simply wanted the ability to access web content on our phones. Any old cellphone can call someone, but watching video and web browsing, now that was progress. Too much information on a small screen can kill a user experience – and drive down conversion rates. Mobile users are on the go and need direct, quick access. Before you set out to drive new behaviors on smaller screens, identify the top three end goals you are hoping they perform, then streamline that process through automation.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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