Today, it is more commonplace for the majority of visits to client’s websites to be coming from mobile devices as opposed to desktops. Analytics and user research is telling us that visitors are more comfortable than ever completing transactions on mobile devices, and we’re not just talking about grocery shopping; Euromonitor has claimed that by the year 2022 more than 50% of online travel bookings will be made on mobile devices. Numbers like these emphasize the potential value presented by mobile traffic, which in turn means optimizing mobile experiences is intrinsic to future success.
The boundaries between desktop and mobile devices are becoming blurred. We often hear about multi-device conversions (where users browse on one device and convert on another), which often involve a number of sessions in between. Responsive web design could be seen as another example of this blurring of lines between devices, where one design is adopted across multiple breakpoints.
Despite this, it’s important to not assume a ‘one size fits all approach to mobile optimization; you cannot assume that the desktop experience will automatically crossover to mobile.
Table of contents:
Getting to know your mobile visitors
The user is at the heart of everything we do at PurpleFire and this is no different when it comes to optimizing mobile experiences. Conducting user research on mobile devices presents some additional challenges but none that can’t be overcome. All user behaviour is heavily influenced by location and circumstance and these variables are far less predictable when considering mobile users, compared to users visiting your website from a desktop. This is one reason why getting to know your users is as important as ever.
It is also important to note that when we’re talking about ‘mobile visitors’ and ‘desktop visitors’, we are not necessarily talking about different sets of people. It’s fair to say the majority of visitors are likely to be both mobile and desktop users, depending on variables such as the time of the day or week and their location.
Firstly, we would always recommend setting up a mobile specific profile within your analytics configuration. This would give you a better understanding of how visitors are using your website when accessing it from a mobile device. It would also be worthwhile to set up an advanced segment within your main profile so that you could compare visitors on-site behavior by device type. Doing so would allow you to determine to what extent behaviour differs. From there, you will know how experiences should be tailored for specific device type, ensuring you achieve optimum UX and increased conversions.
One of the difficulties with conducting moderated user research sessions on mobile devices is how much the moderator can see of the participants screen in order to question and probe their actions. In desktop sessions, it’s simple to set up a mirror of the participant’s screen on an additional monitor for the moderator to refer to when needed, not so simple when conducting sessions on smartphones or tablets. From experience, however, we have found that an overhead camera solves this problem and provides the necessary visibility of the user’s behaviour.
Similar issues arise when looking to conduct remote research techniques on mobile devices, but tools like Usertesting.com have recently started offering a mobile screen recording facility which provides a high-quality video output of the participant’s experience. The absence of the mouse is solved by highlighting where participants tap and gesture on the screen with a purple marker, as seen below.
Many of the remote style research, analytics, and insight tools have also developed mobile services (such as ClickTale Touch) which provide not only heat maps and session playbacks, but also the tracking of mobile gestures such as tap, double-tap, zoom, pinch, scroll, swipe, and tilt.
All this means that we have more resources than ever to gather in-depth insights into our user’s experiences using websites on mobile devices.
All this talk of how mobile visitor’s needs, motivations and behaviours may differ to those visiting your website from a desktop bears the question; how do we run on-site experiments which take these differences into consideration?
Testing tools such as Optimizely and Visual Website Optimiser (VWO) have the capability to specify conditions on the traffic that is included in your A/B tests. This means that if you have a hypothesis generated from mobile user research (which was based on the assumption that it is only relevant to those viewing your site on a mobile device), you can run mobile specific experiments. Unless you have a responsive website (see below), we’d recommend you initially run experiments on either desktop or mobile (not both simultaneously), depending on the hypothesis. If you feel learnings from these tests could be applied to other device types when you have the results, then you can always run a follow-up test.
Responsive website design
What about responsive websites, designed to be suitable across multiple breakpoints?
Conducting A/B tests on responsive designs means ensuring the variation concept design is considered at every breakpoint, to ensure it has the desired impact in every instance. This can mean more time and resource at the design stage, but the extra effort will be worth it, as it will give you confidence in the validity of your results. An example of this could be an experiment that aims to increase visibility of a key element, such as an important call to action. While designing the experiment, a mockup of how the variation would look at every breakpoint should be created to ensure the desired increase in prominence is achieved on all screen sizes.
The capabilities of responsive web design mean website content and key elements like calls to action can be prioritized differently for each breakpoint, providing a more tailored experience based on what you know about your users behavioral differences depending on the device they’re using.
- Invest in getting to know how visitor behaviour differs on different device types.
- Don’t assume you know your mobile users if you’ve done research on desktop.
- Use testing data to learn more about what influences your mobile visitors to convert.
- Consider devices types, screen sizes, and breakpoints when designing variations.