My phone died yesterday. It was a Note 2. It had been a vibrant, fun-loving and reliable companion for 18 months or so. A few weeks ago, due to an unfortunate encounter with a tile floor, it acquired a nice crack running across the screen. But it was still fully functional, and I loved it, so I didn’t worry about replacing it.
But, apparently, that surface flaw only hinted at the time bomb lurking beneath. Yesterday evening, I set it down and it was fine. A minute later I picked it up, and the screen wouldn’t turn on. An hour’s worth of desperate attempts at resurrecting it all failed.
It is an ex-phone. Alas. Gone too soon.
In the 24 hours since then, there have already been far too many moments when I’ve gone to go grab it before I realized, “Oh… yeah. I can’t use my phone to see how pissed off I should be at the San Francisco Giants right now.” And then I’d wander off and grab my laptop, after the inevitable few minutes of curling up in the fetal position.
In all seriousness, it has given me a renewed appreciation for the ease of using a smartphone to look up something on the internet. I have a laptop, a Kindle Fire, and an aging iPad. But my phone is where I spend 95% of my web time.
What is shocking is this: how many websites look like garbage on a phone. Actually, let’s rephrase that. It isn’t how they look that is the problem. It’s how they (don’t) work that is the problem. If the mobile version of your site dumps the main page menu and 90 percent of the front page text and links in favor of showing nothing more than a title and a couple of YouTube videos, you have a problem. (Don’t laugh. This isn’t a hypothetical example. Sadly.)
But even big companies are making terrible mistakes when it comes to their mobile experience.
A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend and I took a quick flight to Southern California to visit family. The airline, who shall remain unnamed—let’s call them Northeast Airlines—was running a joint promotion with the satellite TV provider, uh… call them Plate Network. During flights, passengers could use mobile devices to access Northeast’s WIFI and stream television programming courtesy of Plate Network.
My girlfriend wanted to check this out. Five apps, 30 minutes, and dozens of curse words later, she got it working. Kinda. Barely. As long as she didn’t breathe on her phone wrong or make any sudden movements.
We figured out the technical reasons for why it worked so terribly—the major one being that the whole mess relied on Adobe Flash—and what it came down to was that they didn’t think about the needs of their mobile users. They had all sorts of information on their TV offerings available, but the entire point of the promotion, the streaming television, was broken.
The setup was so terrible that it convinced us to never, ever do business with Plate Network. Instead of working as advertising, the promo served as a warning to us.
Fancy, complicated websites aren’t nearly the draw they once were. Specifically because they tend to run poorly on phones, plus they suck up a lot of data, and many people don’t have unlimited data plans anymore on their smartphones.
Think about what a visitor to your website wants, and make it the top priority on the mobile version of your website. If people can’t find what they want in the first ten seconds, they’re gone. People don’t have the time or the data to try and get your site to work.
And it isn’t just me. Google is placing more and more emphasis on how well sites perform on mobile devices. The reason for this is incredibly simple: according to Google, 80% of smartphone users research their buying decisions on their phones, and the majority of the time spent on the web is via smartphones and tablets. If Google takes a user to your site, and your site is quick and good on their phone, then Google looks quick and good.
That’s why I miss my phone: because everything was right at my fingertips. Quick, convenient, simple. And the mobile sites that get my visits and my money are those that know what I’m looking for, rather than focusing on what they want to show me.
I won’t be without my phone for long. And neither will the majority of your potential customers and visitors.