Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

Mobile Website Usability Best Practices - Mobile Websites

March 5th, 2012
by sabrina.shimada

The mobile web is unique; users do not exhibit the same behavior on their mobile phone as they do on their desktop computer. This blog series will point out some of the best practices of mobile website usability by looking at various mobile websites.

Why Your Mobile Strategy Should Include a Mobile Website

Fairly recently, Nielson Norman Group’s usability guru, Jakob Nielson, came out with research findings that tout mobile apps as having better usability than mobile websites, urging companies to go the app route. Nielson pads these findings with a prediction that mobile websites are not too far behind, but his closing advice reads, “Today, if you are serious about creating the best possible mobile user experience, my advice is to develop apps.”

I disagree and here’s why (the abbreviated version).

First step in a positive user experience is providing an experience.

Out of 1.2 billion mobile users, there is a 2:1 ratio for feature phones to smart phones. If you are trying to reach a global audience, this means you are leaving out a huge group of prospective customers. In the US, the majority of web traffic is already dominated by smartphones, but 2.4% of non-computer traffic still comes from feature phones. If you can narrow your users down to smartphones then the second issue you have with mobile apps is optimizing for various devices, your app needs to be optimized for Androids (35.6% non-computer traffic), iPhones (23.5% non-computer traffic), and other smartphones (6.7% non-computer traffic) according to comScore.

Fact: Facebook sees more people accessing their mobile site than from their top native apps combined.

What if users don’t want to download your app?

I know Nielson tested the usability of the apps, but did they do any open-mobile web research? Meaning, did they research how users arrive to mobile sites and applications and test how users react when they hit a page that prompts them to download an app? No, and the way I see it is that any extra step, click, hop, or jump you make the user go through increases the likelihood for drop-off. From personal experience, I have searched and navigated my way to websites that prompt me to download their mobile app, and what do I do? I pass. If there is no direct link to their website, I will hit the back button on my browser and choose another site from my Google search results or I will just take a look at the site later on my computer…that is if I remember.

While there is no research that delves specifically into site abandonment when prompted with an app download, MobiThinking reported that “In all countries surveyed more consumers used their browser than apps and only a minority will use web or apps exclusively. US consumers prefer mobile browsers for banking, travel, shopping, local info, news, video, sports and blogs and prefer apps for games, social media, maps and music.” I am not surprised by this and by no means would I advise a gaming company to dive straight into a mobile website at this stage, considering HTML5 performance (arguably) still lags behind native apps.

Lastly, who says mobile sites can’t offer a great customer experience?

This blog series is going to showcase mobile sites and point out some of the do’s and don’ts as we see them; however, I’d like to start with three do’s that apply to all mobile sites.

  1. Recognition - Your site needs to recognize mobile devices
  2. Speed - Site should load and navigate through pages/searches quickly
  3. Opt-Out Option - Users should be able to easily find a link to full site
  4. Limit the Work - Site should be organized and easy to use as to prevent users from having to search, scroll, click or type too much
  5. Size it Up - Font sizes and buttons should be legible and sized to appropriate tap zones according to type of mobile browser

Now, let’s take a look at our first example of a mobile site and point out the Do’s and Don’ts!

Example 1: AirBnB - Finding a Room Nearby


AirBnB’s initial page wastes no time in presenting users with lodging options by showing nearby locations right from the get-go. Whereas Expedia offers users to ‘Search Nearby Tonight’ or geo-locate via compass icon next to the destination field, both of which require the user to tap another button and load a new screen. Not to mention, when I tapped the ‘Search Nearby Tonight’ I got the error message seen in the pic below which was not informative or helpful at all. Don’t waste users’ time with such messages, make the operation work or come up with better error messaging.

Expedia does, however, offer sorting features not available on the AirBnB site which are extremely helpful when searching for a place to stay. Users can search by price, popularity, or neighborhood, among other options.

To sum it up, the site has minor usability flaws, but overall is an easy to use mobile site that allows users to quickly search and find a room. All of the call-to-action buttons are clearly labeled and appear above the fold. During my site experience there were no loading issues or major roadblocks. When I checked out a few competitor sites, I was surprised to see that few had mobile websites (Roomarama, Wimdu) or if they did, the websites had inferior user experience right off the bat (VRBO, Couchsurfing). Ultimately, AirBnB gets 4/5 stars for overall satisfaction and ease of use in my book.
Stay tuned as I review more mobile websites across industries. If you have any suggestions for sites we should look at, catch us on twitter @evocinsights.

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Usability Week Recap: Day 1 - Mobile User Experience

June 24th, 2011
by Phil Scarampi

Last week, eVOC attended Usability Week 2011, a conference organized by the UX consulting and research firm Nielsen Norman Group (NNG). On Friday, I attended a full-day tutorial taught by NNG’s User Experience Specialist Raluca Budiu, entitled ‘Mobile User Experience 1: Usability of Websites and Apps on Mobile Devices’ (view the full itinerary here).

The purpose of the seminar was to share tips on developing a mobile strategy, outline the differences between building mobile websites vs. applications, and reveal best practices across these different media. NNG pulled data from their own international diary study, user testing, and design reviews, as well as from various research articles.

My colleague Sabrina and I tag-teamed the event. And by tag-teamed, I mean I got to go on Friday, and she got to go on Saturday. Though she’ll be taking a day off any time she likes, so she may be having the last laugh. In any case, stay tuned for her upcoming blog post about her day at the event.

Overall, I found the day I attended to be relevant and engaging. Raluca provided a lot of interesting insights about the mobile user experience. Below are some of my observations:

It is truly amazing how so many of the common conventions we follow for websites on a computer apply equally to mobile devices. Things like messaging, layout, navigation, error messaging, and spacing are all crucial in developing a usable interface for users to get things done – regardless of medium. I’d say 80% of the best practices discussed would apply to every type of device on the market.

Mobile is still such a new medium that many businesses do not have the experience or knowledge to develop a cohesive mobile strategy. At Usability Week, the majority of attendees were designers or programmers at companies just starting to roll out a mobile platform. Fortunately, they can model themselves after other businesses across industries that are well established in mobile, such as Amazon, Google, and Walmart. But despite the efforts of these trendsetters, there is still opportunity for great innovation as technology improves and social media grows.

Something I knew but had never verbalized: There are two reasons people access data on their mobile devices. One is to pass the time by browsing. The other is to search for a specific piece of simple information (people generally look for more complex information on their desktop/laptop computers). It helps to know this so that a site can be tailored to these two reasons.

Something I know and have verbalized: Repeat visitors are more likely to use mobile apps, while casual/occasional visitors are more likely to use mobile websites. It’s therefore no surprise that apps have higher success rates than mobile sites. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) repeat visitors are more likely to use apps and have an easier time completing tasks due to their familiarity with the site. 2) Mobile sites tend to have more capabilities than mobile apps, making them harder to navigate and complete tasks.

Something I didn’t know: Apps put less strain on infrastructure because there are fewer server calls to load content.

Something that really surprised me: Some companies don’t automatically recognize when a mobile user lands on their website. These visitors are forced to browse the full site on their mobile device and consistently have trouble.

One of NNG’s findings is that companies should avoid designing for the lowest common denominator. Their belief is that by trying to satisfy everyone, you most likely satisfy no one. This often goes counter to what companies want to do on their websites. Even if just 2% of visitors are using a certain media to access your site, it’s natural to want to account for them. However, if designing a good experience for that 2% means deteriorating the experience of the 10% who use a different, more ubiquitous media, it is often a better business decision to favor the 10%. And as with all business decisions, key factors must be considered, such as audience, content, budget, priorities, and needs.

Finally, NNG did not spend a lot of time discussing how to conduct mobile testing. But a theme I noticed throughout the day was just how much of their insights and knowledge came from conducting in-person mobile usability testing.

Above all, it’s crucial to know your audience and what they want to do on your app or site. We conduct our own mobile testing that helps companies understand their customers, improve their usability, and increase ROI. Click here to learn more.

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