Time to QA Your Mobile Experience?

Every time I get a mission-critical e-mail with a link, I cringe a little.  It wasn’t always this way.

These days, I’m way more likely to read that e-mail on a mobile device, and if something requires my immediate input via clicking on a link, I can count on the page behind that link working maybe half the time.  It’s not that I’m on an obscure mobile device or anything.  Most times I’m on an iPhone or iPad, but I see the same issues coming up with Android and other mobile browsers, too.

The issue is the overriding assumption that I’ve got immediate access to a desktop.  That assumption can cause a lot of problems.  Countless times, I’ve clicked a link to an interesting news story, a web form that someone needs filled out, or to the login page of a web-based tool – and things aren’t working properly.  Sometimes, ads hover over content and can’t be dismissed.  Other times, elements of the page aren’t clickable, form fields are out of whack or things just aren’t displaying in a legible format.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are quite a few companies that have managed to pull off a seamless mobile experience that rivals or even exceeds the experience offered on the desktop.  But countless other companies are falling victim to The Desktop Assumption, and I’m curious as to why they haven’t fixed things yet.

The Desktop Assumption is at odds with how many people experience the Internet, particularly young people who spend the majority of their Internet time connected via mobile phones and tablets.  Even the most basic of analytics packages should be able to compare bailout rates on your website’s most popular landing pages, and show how the mobile experience measures up to the desktop.  If you linked to a piece of content in your newsletter last week and notice that just about every mobile user got no further than the landing, it’s time to look for a problem.

Ideally, you’ll proactively test your pages on a mobile browser to spot potential problems down the road, but obviously, many companies have overlooked this.  Perhaps they optimize the experience to the desktop and make assumptions concerning their mobile users.  Whatever the case, clearly we could all invest some time in checking to be sure that mobile users are able to get to the content and tools we push to them.

Many basic content management systems have built-in skins for mobile devices and can repaginate content for anybody visiting from their phone or tablet.  I wish I could say the same for mobile tools.  But if you’re posting basic HTML content, there’s really no excuse for having it come across to mobile users as illegible or confusing.

If you haven’t already, set up some custom analytics reports to see how behaviors differ between mobile and desktop browsers.  You may be surprised at what you find.

Tom Hespos is a contributor at The Makegood and Founder and Chief Media Officer at Underscore Marketing, a boutique firm that creates and manages digital marketing programs. Look for Tom’s column the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month.