Mobile Optimization: Best Practices

Learn how to make your marketing creatives look good on mobile devices.

The desktop isn’t dead, but it’s time to start acting like it is. People are using mobile more than ever before, and chances are your ads will be seen on a phone screen a lot more often than on a desktop monitor. Before you send an image-based email, launch a new webpage or website, or publish any digital creatives, you need to make sure it looks good on mobile.

Mobile is King

According to The Kahuna Mobile Marketing Index (which includes data from over 400 million user profiles), 86-percent of emails opened in the first quarter of 2016 were done so on a mobile device.

The study also showed that the click-to-open rates (CTOR) were higher on mobile than on desktop. CTOR shows you a percentage of the people who clicked on a link in your email after opening it. It’s a valuable statistic because it’s probably your best way of knowing how much email engagement you receive – which is especially important for image-based emails that aren’t always viewable across all devices and may have high open rates, but not high COTR rates.

The apparent favoritism of the phone screen translates to website traffic, too. SimilarWeb recently published a report that showed over half of consumer web traffic is from mobile. While mobile users made up the majority, the report showed they spend less time on site, visit fewer pages, and bounce more often.

Mobile Testing

Ready to optimize your site for cell phone users? Here’s a trick to see what your website looks like on mobile:

  • Open your site in Google Chrome.
  • Hit F12 on your keyboard.
  • Look for the “Toggle Device Toolbar” (it’ll be on the top left of the box that just opened up on your screen, and it’ll look like two differently sized rectangles) and click on it.

You should now see a mobile version of your website. A dropdown at the top of the screen will let you choose between devices. You can click the “Edit” option to add different devices to that dropdown. Or, you can click on “Responsive” to set a pixel ratio of your choosing (this option is good if you want to see what the site will look like on a laptop screen, which tends to be 1366x768).

Using this Chrome feature can give you an idea of what your website looks like across different mobile devices, but it shouldn’t be relied on for testing mobile functionality. To do that, you’ll need to use a cross-browser compatibility tester. Ideally, it should let you connect to an offsite physical mobile device through your desktop computer (as opposed to an emulated device).

We use BrowserStack to check our sites, and we wrote a review that explains why. But we should point out that even the best desktop based mobile testing programs fall short, mostly because it’s hard to test touch-screen functionality with a mouse.

Mobile Design

Now that you know how to test for mobile, you can start building for mobile. Most of us are used to developing for desktop first and then optimizing for mobile afterward. It’s an okay approach some of the time, but we recommend occasionally designing a marketing campaign especially for mobile.

Like the co-founder and CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, said: “People interact with their phones very differently than they do with their PCs, and I think that when you design from the ground up with mobile in mind, you create a very different product than going the other way.”

When designing for mobile, it’s important to remember that mobile devices come in various shapes and sizes. What might look good on a newer model with a bigger screen could look a lot different on something smaller, like the iPhone 5. It’s hard to test on every device, so we recommend using Google Analytics to figure out which devices your customers are using the most, and then design to those. Also, it’s a good practice to go with designs that’ll look and react well at any size.

We were recently looking at the stats for one of our sites and were surprised to see a surge in iPad traffic. While it wasn’t enough to get us to design to that device, it’s something we’ll keep an eye on going forward.

What About an App?

After you put some time into optimizing your digital presence for mobile, you may be tempted to take the next step and build an app. That’s probably a good idea.

According to a recent article titled Why Your Small Business Needs a Mobile App, almost three-quarters of Americans use their mobile phone at least once every hour, and about 90-percent of that time is devoted to apps.

So if mobile is king, then apps are the kingdom where everyone lives.

After implementing an app, some companies notice increased engagement with users, better brand recognition, and more repeat users.

Creating an app isn’t nearly as cost prohibitive as it used to be. There are companies out there that will do all of the groundwork for you. All you’ll need to do is decide what features you want the app to have. As long as you’re willing to choose cookie-cutter options for your app, it should be a relatively inexpensive project. But if you want unique features or an innovative design, you should expect to spend a little extra.

Final Thoughts

Making sure your site looks good on mobile has become more important than optimizing for desktop. Simply put, you can no longer ignore mobile. We hope these tips will help you embrace the form and take your digital marketing to the next level.