We’re one week from election day, so I figured that I should write up a summary of an article I saw a couple of months ago regarding the Presidential candidates’ mobile websites. If I didn’t do it this week, it would be totally out of date next month!

Anyway, the article was a comparison of the mobile website approaches taken by the Obama and Romney campaigns. It was written by Brad Frost and posted over at Smashing Magazine (one of my favorite web design resources, by the way). It’s a long read, and you can access the full article here.

To summarize, Romney’s campaign developed a dedicated mobile website while the Obama campaign chose to do a responsive website design for their mobile presence. While Brad doesn’t say which approach is better, he does a great job analyzing the pros and cons of each. After I read it, it highlighted and reinforced a few key concepts I like to emphasize with our clients when we work with them on their mobile website projects.

They are

  1. Start with Why
    The first question I like to ask is “why would a user access your site on a mobile device?” In other words, you need to think like a mobile user and deliver an experience that matches their expectations and/or guides them efficiently to the actions you want them to take while they are mobile.
  2. Watch the fold
    The “fold” on a mobile screen is a lot more compact than a desktop, so you need to make sure the most important actions are at the top of your mobile website. There’s a good chance users won’t ever scroll below the fold on their mobile device to hunt for more information.
  3. The 5-second rule
    Performance is key. Users don’t give mobile a pass when it comes to load times. If your mobile website doesn’t respond in under 5 seconds, there’s a good chance the user leaves – a 74% chance according to the article!
  4. It’s a communication device
    Remember, it’s a phone, so take advantage of mobile calls to action such as calling and texting. Email is another communication medium, and people love to share on social networks with their phone. In other words, people are in a communicating mood when they’re on their phones. Use this to your advantage.
  5. Geolocation, geolocation, geolocation
    It’s easy to get information about someone’s location when they’re browsing on their mobile device. This information can and should be used to provide context so that information and actions they can take relevant to their current location are highlighted and prioritized over other materials.
  6. Learn from native
    Just because it’s a mobile website doesn’t mean you can’t use native design techniques. Tabbed menus, panels, animations and local storage are available through the use of HTML5 design techniques. Using these techniques will give users a more native experience that they are both comfortable and familiar with.

So while Brad does not crown one approach better than the other, I do agree with his assessment at the end of the article where he states:

If there’s one lesson to learn from analyzing these websites and techniques, it’s that this stuff is genuinely hard.

As he also states, it’s true that a lot of time, effort and work goes into making a great mobile experience, and it’s not a project or process that should be taken lightly. If you’d like assistance making your mobile presence relevant and effective, feel free to contact us. We’d love to help!