• User Research

18th Jun 2014

4 min

Many have dubbed 2014 ‘The year of mobile’ and it is no secret that mobile website traffic is rapidly increasing. Smartphones and tablets have been outselling desktops since 2012 and industry experts predict that internet access from mobile devices will overtake desktop this year.  So what does this actually mean for retailers online strategies? Mobile website? Responsive website? App? To help you make a decision about how to move forward in order to keep up, it is important not to make assumptions about the mobile user and how their needs might differ to those accessing your website on desktop.

Does mobile mean mobile?

Just because you see the word ‘mobile’ doesn’t necessarily mean that your visitors are accessing your website on the go, so don’t make assumptions that these users are going to have a slow internet connection, or that they are in a rush and just want to get on and get off your site as quickly as possible. Although they may well be on the bus or rushing around in a busy city center on their lunch hour, it is just as likely that your mobile users will actually be stationary, at home, on the sofa, with a strong Wi-Fi connection and a desire to simply browse your website. It is not unreasonable to suggest that smartphones and tablets are even making their way into many of Britain’s bedrooms, with recent news reports blaming tablets and smartphones for an insomnia epidemic in the UK.

Attributing the increase in mobile traffic over recent years to users accessing the internet on the go is only half the story. The other half is made up of the mobile users who are choosing to the access the internet on their mobile devices, in an environment where they actually have the capacity to access the internet on desktop, they just choose not to.

3 methods to help you discover what ‘mobile’ really means

  1. Persona profiling and user journey mapping. Knowing who your users actually are is the first step in understanding how they are likely to react to and interact with new technologies. Lifestyle characteristics are of most importance here, how much spare time do your users have? How much disposable income? Who do they live with? How many children do they have? Answers to all of these questions will help you hypothesize your target demographics environment and aims when accessing your website on mobile.
  2. Analytics. Using your analytics data can not only tell you how much your mobile traffic is increasing but it also allows you to identify trends in your mobile traffic data that will tell you more about users’ environment when they are accessing your website.  Exploring mobile visits by hour, will help you to determine if users are accessing your website while relaxing on the sofa on an evening or while walking to the tram. Whereas average time on site and most viewed content from mobile visitors compared to desktop will increase your understanding of how users’ tasks may differ depending on device type. It is also integral that you understand which mobile devices your website traffic is being generated from to allow you to accurately assess the current mobile experience.
  3. Diary studies. Diary studies can reveal insight into your audience and their mobile habits such as time of day, location and task aims. Setting up a diary study via email or social media will allow participants to easily log entries whether at home or out and about. It will also mean you are constantly updated about all of the users touch points with your website on mobile, pretty much as they happen. Conducting in-depth follow up interviews with the users after the study period gives you the opportunity to delve deeper into their mobile behaviors and gather qualitative data to back up your findings.

In summary, don’t make assumptions about users mobile environment; there is every chance users just can’t be bothered to move from the sofa to turn their desktop device on. Know your users, this will help you to theorize their likely environments and aims when accessing your website on mobile. Use your data to identify mobile usage trends for an insight into the majority’s habits and behaviors. Finally, prove your hypothesis by monitoring your users touch points with your website on mobile with research with real users.