Online shopping has changed the way consumers purchase goods. Throughout the ’90s and ’00s, smart businesses realized that an online presence was key to building their bottom line.
However, time marches on, and in this decade, a new method of shopping is rising to dominance. Nowadays shoppers increasingly make purchases through their mobile devices. Therefore, today’s smart businesses optimize their sites for smartphones. Here are a few tips to get you started.
To App or Not to App?
Image via Flickr by Siddartha Thota
The first choice you need to make when designing a mobile website is whether to merely optimize your page for browser viewing on phones, or to go all-out and program an app. Depending on the needs of your business, either could be appropriate. This HumanServicesSolutions article provides a handy list of advantages of both formats. It’s useful to remember that online shopping requires a live connection, thus negating some of the advantages of the app style.
Even if you decide to go the app route, however, building a quality mobile website is going to be a part of your process. Searches are the primary method by which web users discover novel content, and search engines are going to be indexing off of your mobile website, not your app (although engines like Google will point searchers who find your site on a mobile device towards your app). Keep this in mind when you start promoting your app and plan accordingly.
Don’t Hide the Cart… or Anything Else
Image via Flickr by Erich Ferdinand
Let’s face it, online shoppers are looking for ease of use above all else. Burying the shopping cart behind several screens, or making the icon difficult to find, will only drive off potential buyers. Think of this in terms of a brick-and-mortar business: If your local grocery store hid its carts out back by the dumpster, customers would be unlikely to return. Place the cart icons prominently in the interface, and watch the money roll in!
In fact, the same logic can be extended to most of the other elements of your site. Users don’t like to dig through dozens of pages of text to find the help they need. Be sure that all of your site’s tools are located conveniently and in-context, preferably with a “menu” feature at the top of the page to collect useful functions in one place.
The Mechanics of Touch
Image via Flickr by Orin Zebest
Understanding the physical dimension of smartphone browsing is key to making sure that your end users have an enjoyable experience and become returning customers. Smartphones have small viewing areas, and it can be difficult to manipulate on-screen controls, as anyone who has used a full touchscreen keyboard can attest.
At the same time, this lack of space make on-screen real estate valuable; with a potential usable area roughly the size of a business card, mobile designers simply can’t afford wasted space. Menus provide a good solution, but take pains to make those buttons visible and accessible.
Of course, screen area can vary greatly between devices, providing a different experience when using an HTC One smartphone, for instance. Check out the websites of popular cellular providers to check current trends in cell-phone size.
Write for Success!
The best mobile design in the world won’t do you any good if you present your customers with unattractive copy. Well-known web professionals agree that “Writing is design.” When preparing your descriptions, use the most evocative text possible, outlining the value of the product being sold. Remember, however, that mobile design is sparse by necessity; short and punchy triumphs over depth here.
Avoid the temptation to economize on space by reducing the amount of your inventory shown. Mobile shoppers want to feel like they have access to all of your products. Instead, use menus and progressive options to silo off different merchandise areas.
The rise of mobile shopping can be an obstacle for your business, or it can be a welcome source of new revenue. Using techniques like those described above, you can make sure that your company stays on the forefront of customer-friendly options.