How to save your neglected mobile website

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The mobile phone may be the smallest device we carry, but it has become perhaps the largest daily opportunity to portray your brand to consumers. Its intimate nature is intensely appealing to brand managers and content creators alike, yet continues to be significantly misunderstood. The one common, missing component in mobile strategic planning is often to put the user experience first. And whether we like it or not, consumers consume on their terms. This means that no one flavor will satisfy everyone. But unfortunately, many companies large and small, are serving up 90 percent vanilla, as they turn to the app as their primary savior, and leave their mobile websites as mostly uncultivated gardens.

While a well-developed app is a powerful, interactive asset, the vast majority of mobile consumer discovery and exploration begins with search and direct navigation on the web. A feeble mobile site strips the brand of the consumer image and feel it works so hard to develop across other media -- including its traditional website. Instead, what remains is a weak cover band rendition, with simple menus, minimal graphics, and overall poor experiences. Further, as the PC takes its place as a minority internet-consumption device, why are a disproportionate amount of your internal resources continuing to be devoted to that web experience, leaving your mobile site remaining neglected?

Admit the mistakes of others

Interestingly, over the past three years, virtually every company has at least tacitly acknowledged the idea that it needs a mobile website. However, the lack of true interest here has led many brands and content publishers to present mobile sites that the average consumer can easily deem as truly awful. The question that many managers continue to not even ask is whether their site, their company's 24-hour face to the mass audience, is in that group of shame. The good news is that you can play the internal hero in correcting the errors that may have been created and exacerbated by others, and quickly.

To start fixing the problems, managers need to understand the factors that continue to work against them in creating strong mobile sites. The first is your digital team members have been unreasonably expected to become mobile experts immediately, as this area was deemed close enough to the more than 20-year-old traditional web. While rooted in the same coding languages, the fact is that mobile is its own animal, with different nuances, data, and consumer behaviors.

The next challenge for the mobile website is that it does not carry the same cachet and pride with executives that an app does. Politically, the app looks to be the safer route. However, that safety is quite short-lived, particularly after the need for a full, real, app program is required to make the simplest of apps successful. Once it becomes truly accepted internally that any app needs revisions (on multiple platforms), advertising budgets, and personnel to manage the app and its data, the app honeymoon comes to a quick ending.

Perhaps the biggest culprit in impeding the growth of strong mobile websites lies with the choice in agency partners and assigned responsibilities. With the explosion of smartphones starting around 2009, each day seemed to further display consumers' ever-increasing content consumption on their mobile devices. Agencies, of all kinds, couldn't help but note this change based on the data coming from the traditional websites they created for clients which showed PC-consumption diving. Coupled with a new flood of requests from the justifiably-un-mobile-knowledgeable clients, seemingly every agency began stating it could "do mobile." While the "could" in that assertion may be true, there were few that could actually do mobile well. Similar to your internal team, it was unrealistic to believe that an agency could offer advanced, embedded understanding of mobile consumer behavior and market experience overnight. Their offering, instead, was born more out of a defensive position to contain client budgets in-house, than to best serve those same clients' interests.