Figuring out how to convert website visitors into customers requires not only strategy, but extensive testing. You can learn from others what worked for them, but your website audience is unique. That’s probably why you’re reading this article. You want to know the best place to start. Then, you can test different solutions to increase your conversion rate. I’m a big fan of growth hacking. In other words, my goal is always to get the biggest possible results in the shortest possible time frame. That requires aggressive marketing and strategic application of data. You might take a different approach. Whatever…
Many people want to create the best email campaigns possible, and this goal can be realized by following best practices for email design and coding and by implementing advanced techniques correctly. This comprehensive guide, for novices and pros alike, delves deep into the nitty gritty of email marketing.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
best practices for email design, from creating a theme to designing the footer;
how to add images and incorporate rich media (GIFs, cinemagraphs, video) in your emails;
how to design responsive emails for a better user experience;
email client support for responsive mobile emails;
finally, advanced techniques in email design.
Emails have transformed from being an ordinary text-based personal communication tool into a future-proof marketing channel. We have moved into a world of visually attractive HTML emails that have the feel of microsites in the inbox.
Getting acquainted with the best practices of email coding is, therefore, imperative if you want to avoid a broken user experience and instead improve user engagement. Moreover, as the digital world becomes more mobile, creating responsive emails is the need of the hour.
In this article, we shall delve deeper into best practices to follow for all email clients, as well as advanced techniques you can include for email clients that support interactive elements.
Let’s start with the basic structure of an email.
Basic Email Structure
As Leonardo da Vinci said, ”Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Accordingly, keep the design of your email simple.
Check out the email design below by Charity: Water. Simple yet engaging.
Developers have been coding emails using <table> layouts for a long time now. So, it is recommended that you place your email elements in a grid-based layout, rather than arbitrarily placed. Moreover, any element that might overlap needs to be added to a different layer.
The email shown above by Charity: Water looks like this when exported to a tabular layout:
Email design is made up of different subelements. Let’s explore them now.
1. Email Theme
The logo is not the only element that reflects your brand’s personality. The overall theme of your email, including the fonts, color scheme and imagery, should be in sync with branding guidelines.
2. Width And Height Of Email Template
Because your subscribers use diverse email clients and devices, your email should be appropriately visible in the preview pane of all email clients. Keep in mind that the email will be displayed according to the display pane of the email service provider or client. Only certain email clients, such as Thunderbird, Apple Mail and native mobile email clients, will display email at full width.
For other email clients, the display boxes have variable sizes. Many service providers, such as MailChimp, go over the basics of HTML email, by recommending, for example, 600 to 800 pixels as a width, so that the full email gets displayed. Remember, that most subscribers never use the horizontal scroll bar in an email.
The height of your email template should usually be long enough to accommodate your copy within two scroll lengths. You can certainly have a longer email template if you have to convey a huge amount of information. However, if your email template gets too long, it might become boring for subscribers, who will be less likely to scroll to the end to check out all of the offers and promotions included.
The height of the preview pane of most email clients (which contains content commonly referred to as “above the fold”) is generally between 300 and 500 pixels. Make the best use of this space, so that the content included above the fold entices the subscriber to scroll down.
Every email developer knows that if an email’s file size exceeds 102 KB, Gmail’s app will clip the email, and they will not be able to track metrics.
Check out the screenshot below to see what an email looks like in Gmail when it is clipped:
To avoid Gmail’s clip, make sure your email does not have unnecessary code and is not over-formatted. Go for a minimalist email design, without any shortened URLs. Note that images will not be embedded in the email and, so, will not increase the file’s size. That being said, removing unnecessary images will help to reduce the email size.
For marketers who use predesigned templates, the height and width will already be taken care of. If you want to use your own design, consider the ideal width and height of an email template.
3. Body Of Email
Emails usually begin with a hero image at the top, followed by the main copy, a call to action and then the footer.
Because most people read on screens positioned about 2 to 3 feet away, your h1 title should be around 16 pixels; if your title is short, it could even go up to 20 pixels. A good idea would be to render the h1 title as text, along with an attractive hero image.
Your descriptive text should not be smaller than 12 pixels. It should be easily readable across all email clients and devices. Moreover, the alignment of paragraphs and paragraph size also play an important role.
4. Call To Action
The primary objective of email marketing is to persuade customers to take action. To do that, your call to action (CTA) should have engaging, actionable verbs. Use convincing and actionable text, like “Start the free trial,” rather than drab phrases like “Click here.”
Create a sense of urgency in CTAs and get higher click-through rates by adding the word “now.”
Campaign Monitor, in one of its guides, “10 Tips to Optimize Your Calls to Action,” emphasizes that a CTA button should always contrast strongly with the background color, so that it doesn’t blend in and that it grabs the subscriber’s attention. Based on your target audience, your industry and the message to be conveyed, including CTAs at regular intervals can increase email conversions and the desired subscriber action. Its height should be at least 30 pixels, and it should be easily tappable with a thumb on mobile devices.
Check out the email below from Asana. It places a CTA strategically above the first fold and also follows the CTA best practices discussed above.
5. Images And Interactive Elements
If you are putting images or rich media in your email, add relevant alternative (alt) text, so that the purpose of the email is preserved even when the visuals are blocked by the email client. This is also greatly helpful with accessibility, because screen readers will be able to read the alternative text and convey your message.
Most email marketers tend to send emails consisting of a single image, which is first of many common HTML mistakes compiled by MailChimp. It recommends a text-to-image ratio of 80 to 20, to make sure that emails do not get trapped in spam filters. According to a recent study by MailChimp, 200 words per image yield a good click-through rate.
Using linked images in your email ensures an optimum file size. Load images from an external server using <img> tags.
The main advantage of this technique is that you can change images even after sending the email. It makes the email light and reduces the time taken to send the email. The disadvantage is that subscribers will have to download the images from the external server, which will incur download costs for those on metered connections, and the images might also get blocked by some email services.
Rich media elements, such as GIFs, cinemagraphs and video, are becoming popular in email these days.
You can add a GIF or cinemagraph in an email simply by uploading the file to the server that stores your images. Then, copy the URL and use the following HTML:
<pre class="lang:default decode:true" title="Code for adding GIFs or Cinemagraphs in Email"><img src="/wp-content/uploads/thefiletobeinserted.gif">
Test the email to make sure that the GIF works properly.
Embedding video is a very adaptable technique of web development, but unfortunately, it’s not supported in email. Therefore, opt for HTML5 video.
To add a video in email, use the code below:
<pre class="lang:default decode:true" title="Code for including video in email"><video width="400" height="200" controls poster="http://www.art.com/images/blog_images/Imagefiles/2017/html5_video/valentinesday.jpg"><br/><source src="http://www.videofile.com/htmlfiles/movie-14thfeb.mp4" type="video/mp4"><br/><!-- fallback 1 --><br/><a href="http://www.xyz.com" ><br/><img height="200" src=" http://www.art.com/pictures/important/Imagefiles/2017/html5_video/valentinesday.jpg " width="400" /><br/></a><br/></video><br/><br/><br/>
HTML5 primarily supports the MP4, OGG and WebM video formats.
Pro tip: Apple supports the MP4 video format in its email clients and browsers.
Some points to remember:
Make sure that the server configuration you use can output the right MIME type, so that the email client identifies the correct video format when retrieving the video.
If you are using an Apache web server, add this entry to the .htaccess file: Add Type video/mp4.mp4 m4v.
6. Number Of Email Folds
Your email should have just two folds, as mentioned earlier. The first fold should capture your brand and include the h1 title with a relevant CTA. If your email template exceeds two scrolls, then the third scroll should cross-sell your products. The idea is to change up the content and keep subscribers hooked by providing interesting information.
The footer is the most overlooked part of any email. However, it probably has information that subscribers are looking for, such as the company address, social sharing buttons and contact details. In order for your email to be CAN-SPAM compliant, the footer should have some additional elements.
An “Unsubscribe” link should allow subscribers to opt out of your mailing list easily and will reduce spam complaints.
Your contact details should link back to your company website and should include your postal and email address.
Additionally, you can have ancillary links, such as “Forward to a friend” and “View in Browser.”
Explanation of why the recipient got this email
Your subscribers have probably subscribed to numerous mailing lists. Subtly remind recipients of the reason they received the email, to maintain your reputation as an emailer and to minimize spam complaints.
Include the copyright mark, along with the current year and your business name.
Designing The Footer
Cramming information into the footer sounds tempting, but you should determine the most important information for your business and restrict the footer to the minimum. Stuffing it with too much information could lead readers to dismiss it entirely because they will not be able to figure out which links to click.
Check out the footer below by Cotton on Body. Although it is well organized, it could be overwhelming for the subscriber who is scanning the email.
Have a look at the footer below by Alice and Olivia. It is simple, and it maintains a visual hierarchy according to the actions they want subscribers to take.
The footer by HSN below is clean and makes good use of padding and white space. It is not overwhelming, yet it conveys important information that readers might be looking for.
Mobile Responsive Emails
Most subscribers will check email on their phone. Owing to this trend, your emails ought to be responsive. Responsive design includes several elements, such as media queries, fluid grids and fluid images, so that users can view the email as intended, regardless of screen size or device. The basics of responsive email design include the table element, easily stackable sections and full-width CTAs.
If your subscriber list consists of many mobile users, then avoid overlapping layouts. Hide non-primary sections, such as navigation and email advertisements, to cater to mobile subscribers. Mobile-specific email elements such as a navigation menu and image sliders can also be used.
Responsive email design is supported in these email clients:
iOS Mail app
Windows Phone 7.5
Android 4.x Email (OEM) app
iPhone Gmail app
The following email clients do not support responsive email:
To make their emails responsive, developers use a media query that is commonly referred to as @media. It is a special set of CSS styles, included in the header, that work as conditional statements or dynamic rules.
The point of media queries is to identify the screen size of the device being used and to execute various rules according to that screen size. The challenge is that media queries do not work in all email clients and might need detailed planning and testing compared to other design techniques.
Have a look at the media query below:
<pre class="lang:default decode:true" title="Structure of Media Query">@media only screen and (min-width:479px) and (max-width:701px)
width: 100% !important;
display: none !important;
When this email is accessed on a device whose screen is between 479 and 701 pixels wide, the email’s width will be 100%, according to the width: 100% !important; attribute. The !important function forces this attribute in email clients such as Gmail, where it might be ignored.
The styles in the CSS rule block should specify the container or element type that the styles will dictate. Assign these rules in the HTML if you want them to work.
Here is the CSS:
<pre class="lang:default decode:true" title="Code for CSS"> td[class="body-header"] font-size: 18px !important;
And here is the HTML:
<pre class="lang:default decode:true" title="Code for HTML"><td align="left" class="body-header">
It is important that the element (td) and the class (body-header) added in the CSS and HTML match each other.
With the advent of advanced email clients, such as Apple Mail, which is based on Webkit, email developers can even play around with keyframe animation, interactive elements such as carousels, and live feeds.
Conditional coding for different email clients (such as for Outlook and for Samsung and Apple devices) has also become possible.
If you follow these simple tips, you will surely be able to create awesome email marketing campaigns that convert, whether you are a novice or pro at email programming. In the end, aim to create a good user experience and make subscribers look forward to your emails. Happy emailing!
(This is a sponsored article.) Designing mobile apps means going through different stages: pre-planning, visual concepts, designing, prototyping, development. After defining your project, you need to test how it will work before you begin to develop it.
This stage is captured by prototyping. Prototyping allows designers to get a feel for the functionality and flow of an app, and to preview screens and interactions. Testing with prototypes provides valuable insights into user behavior and can be used to validate the interaction model. It is possible to represent the interactivity of an app before its development, and this gives developers a global vision of an app’s functioning, user behavior and steps to afford.
Prototyping is the simulation of the final result of an app’s development. Through this step, it’s possible to show a workflow of an app and consider problems and solutions. The two fundamental roles who will work in this phase are the user interface (UI) designer, who creates the look and feel, and the user experience (UX) designer, who creates the interaction structure between elements.
There are many ways to design and create an app’s look. As a loving user of Adobe products, I work most of the time in Illustrator and Photoshop. Illustrator helps me when I create and draw UI elements, which I can simply save and use later with Adobe XD. The process is the same as I’ve done for icons and that I showed you in my previous article “Designing for User Interfaces: Icons as Visual Elements for Screen Design.”
Photoshop comes in handy when I have to work with images in UI. But that’s not all: With the latest Adobe XD release, we can bring Photoshop design files into XD very quickly, and continue prototyping our app.
Today, I’ll offer a tutorial in which we discover how to transfer our app’s design from Photoshop to XD, continuing to work on it and having fun while prototyping. Please note that I’ve used images from Pexels.com in order to provide examples for this article.
We will cover the following steps:
Simple hand sketch,
Designing In Photoshop,
Importing PSD files to XD,
Developing a prototype,
For Adobe tools, I will use Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC and XD CC — all in the 2018 versions.
Before we start designing our app, we need a plan for how to go about it. There are some questions we have to answer:
What is the app for?
What problem does it solve?
How easy is it to use?
Let’s assume we want to create an app for recipes. We want something simple: a space for pictures with ingredients and recipes.
I sketched by hand what I have in mind :
Then, I grabbed Photoshop and created my layouts.
2. Designing In Photoshop
Before we create layouts for our app, we can take advantage of a very useful resource by Adobe: free UI design resources. Because we will be designing an iOS app, I downloaded the iOS interface for Photoshop.
Feel free to experiment with the layouts you’ve downloaded.
In Photoshop, I created a new blank document from a preset for the iPhone 6 Plus:
Below is our layout, as I designed it in Photoshop. I tried to reproduce what I drew by hand earlier.
The PSD file contains four artboards. Each has its own layers.
Note: The images used in this prototype are from Pexels.com.
Let’s see how to import this PSD file into Adobe XD.
3. Importing PSD Files To Adobe XD
Let’s run Adobe XD and click on “Open.” Select our PSD file, and click “Open.”
Ta-dah! In a few seconds, you’ll see all of your PSD elements open in XD.
More importantly, all of the elements you just imported will be organized exactly as they were in Photoshop. You can see your artboards on the left:
When you select an artboard, you will see its layers on the left — exactly the way it was in Photoshop before exporting.
Let’s do something in XD to improve our layout.
Go to Artboard 3. In this artboard, I want to add some more images. I just created three spaces in Photoshop to get an idea of what I want. Now, I can add more with some very simple steps.
First, delete the second and third image. From the first rectangle, delete the image, too, by double-clicking on it. You’ll have just one rectangle.
With this rectangle selected, go to “Repeat Grid” on the right and click it. Then, grab the handle and pull it downward. The grid will replicate your rectangle, inserting as many as you want. Create six rectangles, and adjust your artboard’s height by double-clicking on it and pulling its handle downwards.
Now, select all of the images you want to put in rectangles, and drag them all together onto the grid you just created:
Et voilà! All of your pictures are in place.
Now that all of the layouts are ready, let’s play with prototyping!
4. Developing A Prototype
Let’s begin the fun part!
We have to create interactions between our artboards and elements. Click on “Prototype” in the top left, as shown in the image below.
Click on the “Start here” button. When the little blue arrow appears, click and drag it to the second artboard. We are connecting these two artboards and creating interaction by clicking the intro button. Then, you can decide which kind of interaction to use (slide, fading, time, etc.).
See how I’ve set it in the image below:
Scrolling tip: Before viewing our prototype preview, we need to do another important thing. We have to make our artboards scrollable, giving them the same effect as when pushing a screen up and down with a finger on the phone.
Let’s go back a step and click on “Design” in the top left. Check which artboards are higher — in this case, the third and fourth. Select the third artboard from the left, and you’ll see the section “Scrolling” on the right. Set it to “Vertical.”
Then, you’ll see that your “Viewport Height” is set to a number, higher than the original artboard’s size. That’s normal, because we made it higher by adding some elements. But to make our artboard scrollable, we need to set that value to the original artboard’s size — in this case, 2208 pixels, the height of the iPhone 6 Plus, which we set in Photoshop and then imported to XD.
After setting that, you’ll see a dotted line where your artboard ends. That means it is now scrollable.
To see our first interactions in action, click on “Prototype” in the top left, and then click the little arrow in the top right. See them in action below:
Let’s finish up by connecting all of our artboards, as we’ve seen before, and check our final prototype. Don’t forget to connect them “back” to the previous artboard when clicking on the little arrow to go back:
And here is the final demo:
In this tutorial, you have learned:
that you can design your app in Photoshop,
how you can bring it into Adobe XD,
how to create a simple prototype.
Decide on one primary action per screen, and highlight its containing element through visual design (e.g. a big CTA).
White space is very important on small screens. It prevents confusion and gives the user more clickable space. And here comes that rule again: One primary action works well with more white space.
If you are not on a desktop, avoid all unnecessary elements.
Always test your prototypes with regular users. They will help you to understand whether the flow is easy to follow.
(This is a sponsored article.) More than ever, people are engaging with their phones in crucial moments. The average US user spends 5 hours per day on mobile. The vast majority of that time is spent in apps and on websites.
The difference between a good app and a bad app is usually the quality of its user experience (UX). A good UX is what separates successful apps from unsuccessful ones.
Back in July 2010, I wrote an article for Smashing Magazine entitled “How To Use CSS3 Media Queries To Create A Mobile Version of Your Website.” Almost eight years on, that article still receives a lot of traffic. I thought it would be a nice idea to revisit that subject, now that we have layout methods such as Flexbox and Grid Layout. This article will take a look at the use of media queries for responsive design today, and also have a look at what is coming in the future.
In February of 2015, I began working on an iOS app called Air Lookout. The goal of the app was to simplify and remove any obfuscation of air quality information. After over a year of working nights and weekends, the total net income since it launched in 2016 has been less than $1,000. Even with those numbers, I would relive every hour of work.
The one thing that I can’t place a monetary value on is how the experience of creating Air Lookout has completely changed my mind on the process of design and development for every project I have worked on since.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to this month’s web development update. It’s actually the first one that we publish, and from now on, Anselm will summarize the most important things that happened over the past month in one handy list for you. So that you’re always up to date with what’s going on in the web community. Enjoy!
Today, I’d like to begin this update with a question I’m asking myself quite often, and that was fueled by the things I read lately: Where do we see our responsibility, where do we see other people’s responsibilities?
In its move to patch a security hole as part of the iOS 10.3 release, Apple has introduced (yet) another redirection mechanism that developers must handle when attempting to implement mobile deep-link routing (i.e. the mechanism to route users to a specific page inside a mobile app, rather than the App Store or app home page).
This redirection instance has introduced additional friction to the app download and reopening process, and data shows that it has decreased conversion rates on iOS 10.
One lazy Sunday evening, I decided to order Thai delivery for dinner. It was a Green-Curry-and-Crispy-Wonton kind of night.
A quick google search from my iPhone turned up an ad for a food delivery app. In that moment, I wanted to order food fast, without having to dial a phone number or speak to a human. So, I clicked.
From the ad, I was taken to the company’s mobile website. There was a call-to-action to “Get the App” below the fold, but I didn’t want to download a whole app for this one meal. I would just order from the mobile site.
Dun, dun, duuuun.
Over the next minute, I had one of the most frustrating ordering experiences of my life. Labeless hamburger menus, the inability to edit my order, and an overall lack of guidance through the ordering process led me to believe I would never be able to adjust my order from ‘Chicken Green Curry’ to ‘Prawn Green Curry’.
After 60 seconds of struggling, I gave up, utterly defeated.
I know this wasn’t a life-altering tragedy, but it sure was an awful mobile experience. And I bet you have had a similar experience in the last 24 hours.
Let’s think about this for a minute:
This company paid good money for my click
I was ready to order online: I was their customer to lose
I struggled for about 30 seconds longer than most mobile users would have
I gave up and got a mediocre burrito from the Mexican place across the street.
Not only was I frustrated, but I didn’t get my tasty Thai. The experience left a truly bitter taste in my mouth.
10 test ideas for optimizing your mobile website!
Get this checklist of 10 experiment ideas you should test on your mobile website.
Why is mobile website optimization important?
In 2017, every marketer ‘knows’ the importance of the mobile shopping experience. Americans spend more time on mobile devices than any other. But we are still failing to meet our users where they are on mobile.
For most of us, it is becoming more and more important to provide a seamless mobile experience. But here’s where it gets a little tricky…
“Conversion optimization”, and the term “optimization” in general, often imply improving conversion rates. But a seamless mobile experience does not necessarily mean a high-converting mobile experience. It means one that meets your user’s needs and propels them along the buyer journey.
I am sure there are improvements you can test on your mobile experience that will lift your mobile conversion rates, but you shouldn’t hyper-focus on a single metric. Instead, keep in mind that mobile may just be a step within your user’s journey to purchase.
So, let’s get started! First, I’ll delve into your user’s mobile mindset, and look at how to optimize your mobile experience. For real.
What’s different about mobile?
First things first: let’s acknowledge that your user is the same human being whether they are shopping on a mobile device, a desktop computer, a laptop, or in-store. Agreed?
So, what’s different about mobile? Well, back in 2013, Chris Goward said, “Mobile is a state of being, a context, a verb, not a device. When your users are on mobile, they are in a different context, a different environment, with different needs.”
Your user is the same person when she is shopping on her iPhone, but she is in a different context. She may be in a store comparing product reviews on her phone, or she may be on the go looking for a good cup of coffee, or she may be trying to order Thai delivery from her couch.
This is why many mobile optimization experts recommend having a mobile website versus using responsive design.
Responsive design is not an optimization strategy. We should stop treating mobile visitors as ‘mini-desktop visitors’. People don’t use mobile devices instead of desktop devices, they use it in addition to desktop in a whole different way.
– Talia Wolf, Founder & Chief Optimizer at GetUplift
Step one, then, is to understand who your target customer is, and what motivates them to act in any context. This should inform all of your marketing and the creation of your value proposition.
(If you don’t have a clear picture of your target customer, you should re-focus and tackle that question first.)
Step two is to understand how your user’s mobile context affects their existing motivation, and how to facilitate their needs on mobile to the best of your ability.
Understanding the mobile context
To understand the mobile context, let’s start with some stats and work backwards.
Americans spend more than half (54%) of their online time on mobile devices (Source: KPCB, 2016)
Mobile accounts for 60% of time spent shopping online, but only 16% of all retail dollars spent (Source: ComScore, 2015)
Insight: Americans are spending more than half of their online time on their mobile devices, but there is a huge gap between time spent ‘shopping’ online, and actually buying.
29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if the original site doesn’t satisfy their needs (Source: Google, 2015)
Of those, 70% switch because of lagging load times and 67% switch because it takes too many steps to purchase or get desired information (Source: Google, 2015)
Insight: Mobile users are hypersensitive to slow load times, and too many obstacles.
So, why the heck are our expectations for immediate gratification so high on mobile? I have a few theories.
Mobile devices provide constant access to the internet, which means a constant expectation for reward.
“The fact that we don’t know what we’ll find when we check our email, or visit our favorite social site, creates excitement and anticipation. This leads to a small burst of pleasure chemicals in our brains, which drives us to use our phones more and more.” – TIME, “You asked: Am I addicted to my phone?”
If non-stop access has us primed to expect non-stop reward, is it possible that having a negative mobile experience is even more detrimental to our motivation than a negative experience in another context?
When you tap into your Facebook app and see three new notifications, you get a burst of pleasure. And you do this over, and over, and over again.
So, when you tap into your Chrome browser and land on a mobile website that is difficult to navigate, it makes sense that you would be extra annoyed. (No burst of fun reward chemicals!)
A mobile device is a personal device
Another facet to mobile that we rarely discuss is the fact that mobile devices are personal devices. Because our smartphones and wearables are with us almost constantly, they often feel very intimate.
In fact, our smartphones are almost like another limb. According to research from dscout, the average cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,167 times per day. Our thumbprints are built into them, for goodness’ sake.
Just think about your instinctive reaction when someone grabs your phone and starts scrolling through your pictures…
It is possible, then, that our expectations are higher on mobile because the device itself feels like an extension of us. Any experience you have on mobile should speak to your personal situation. And if the experience is cumbersome or difficult, it may feel particularly dissonant because it’s happening on your mobile device.
User expectations on mobile are extremely high. And while you can argue that mobile apps are doing a great job of meeting those expectations, the mobile web is failing.
If yours is one of the millions of organizations without a mobile app, your mobile website has got to work harder. Because a negative experience with your brand on mobile may have a stronger effect than you can anticipate.
Even if you have a mobile app, you should recognize that not everyone is going to use it. You can’t completely disregard your mobile website. (As illustrated by my extremely negative experience trying to order food.)
You need to think about how to meet your users where they are in the buyer journey on your mobile website:
What are your users actually doing on mobile?
Are they just seeking information before purchasing from a computer?
Are they seeking information on your mobile site while in your actual store?
The great thing about optimization is that you can test to pick off low-hanging fruit, while you are investigating more impactful questions like those above. For instance, while you are gathering data about how your users are using your mobile site, you can test usability improvements.
Usability on mobile websites
If you are looking take get a few quick wins to prove the importance of a mobile optimization program, usability is a good place to begin.
The mobile web presents unique usability challenges for marketers. And given your users’ ridiculously high expectations, your mobile experience must address these challenges.
Below are four of the core mobile limitations, along with recommendations from the WiderFunnel Strategy team around how to address (and test) them.
Note: For this section, I relied heavily on research from the Nielsen Norman Group. For more details, click here.
1. The small screen struggle
No surprise, here. Compared to desktop and laptop screens, even the biggest smartphone screen is smaller―which means they display less content.
“The content displayed above the fold on a 30-inch monitor requires 5 screenfuls on a small 4-inch screen. Thus mobile users must (1) incur a higher interaction cost in order to access the same amount of information; (2) rely on their short-term memory to refer to information that is not visible on the screen.” – Nielsen Norman Group, “Mobile User Experience: Limitations and Strengths”
Consider persistent navigation and calls-to-action. Because of the smaller screen size, your users often need to do a lot of scrolling. If your navigation and main call-to-action aren’t persistent, you are asking your users to scroll down for information, and scroll back up for relevant links.
Note: Anything persistent takes up screen space as well. Make sure to test this idea before implementing it to make sure you aren’t stealing too much focus from other important elements on your page.
2. The touchy touchscreen
Two main issues with the touchscreen (an almost universal trait of today’s mobile devices) are typing and target size.
Typing on a soft keyboard, like the one on your user’s iPhone, requires them to constantly divide their attention between what they are typing, and the keypad area. Not to mention the small keypad and crowded keys…
Target size refers to a clickable target, which needs to be a lot larger on a touchscreen than it is does when your user has a mouse.
So, you need to make space for larger targets (bigger call-to-action buttons) on a smaller screen.
Test increasing the size of your clickable elements. Google provides recommendations for target sizing:
You should ensure that the most important tap targets on your site—the ones users will be using the most often—are large enough to be easy to press, at least 48 CSS pixels tall/wide (assuming you have configured your viewport properly).
Less frequently-used links can be smaller, but should still have spacing between them and other links, so that a 10mm finger pad would not accidentally press both links at once.
You may also want to test improving the clarity around what is clickable and what isn’t. This can be achieved through styling, and is important for reducing ‘exploratory clicking’.
When a user has to click an element to 1) determine whether or not it is clickable, and 2) determine where it will lead, this eats away at their finite motivation.
As the term mobile implies, mobile devices are portable. And because we can use ‘em in many settings, we are more likely to be interrupted.
“As a result, attention on mobile is often fragmented and sessions on mobile devices are short. In fact, the average session duration is 72 seconds […] versus the average desktop session of 150 seconds.” – Nielsen Norman Group
You should design your mobile experience for interruptions, prioritize essential information, and simplify tasks and interactions. This goes back to meeting your users where they are within the buyer journey.
According to research by SessionM (published in 2015), 90% of smartphone users surveyed used their phones while shopping in a physical store to 1) compare product prices, 2) look up product information, and 3) check product reviews online.
You should test adjusting your page length and messaging hierarchy to facilitate your user’s main goals. This may be browsing and information-seeking versus purchasing.
4. One window at a time
As I’m writing this post, I have 11 tabs open in Google Chrome, split between two screens. If I click on a link that takes me to a new website or page, it’s no big deal.
But on mobile, your user is most likely viewing one window at a time. They can’t split their screen to look at two windows simultaneously, so you shouldn’t ask them to. Mobile tasks should be easy to complete in one app or on one website.
The more your user has to jump from page to page, the more they have to rely on their memory. This increases cognitive load, and decreases the likelihood that they will complete an action.
Your navigation should be easy to find and it should contain links to your most relevant and important content. This way, if your user has to travel to a new page to access specific content, they can find their way back to other important pages quickly and easily.
In e-commerce, we often see people “pogo-sticking”—jumping from one page to another continuously—because they feel that they need to navigate to another page to confirm that the information they have provided is correct.
A great solution is to ensure that your users can view key information that they may want to confirm (prices / products / address) on any page. This way, they won’t have to jump around your website and remember these key pieces of information.
Implementing mobile website optimization
As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, the phrase “you should test” is peppered throughout this post. Because understanding the mobile context, and reviewing usability challenges and recommendations are first steps.
If you can, you should test any recommendation made in this post. Which brings us to mobile website optimization. At WiderFunnel, we approach mobile optimization just like we would desktop optimization: with process.
You should evaluate and prioritize mobile web optimization in the context of all of your marketing. If you can achieve greater Return on Investment by optimizing your desktop experience (or another element of your marketing), you should start there.
But assuming your mobile website ranks high within your priorities, you should start examining it from your user’s perspective. The WiderFunnel team uses the LIFT Model framework to identify problem areas.
The LIFT Model allows us to identify barriers to conversion, using the six factors of Value Proposition, Clarity, Relevance, Anxiety, Distraction, and Urgency. For more on the LIFT Model, check out this blog post.
A LIFT illustration
I asked the WiderFunnel Strategy team to do a LIFT analysis of the food delivery website that gave me so much grief that Sunday night. Here are some of the potential barriers they identified on the checkout page alone:
Relevance: There is valuable page real estate dedicated to changing the language, when a smartphone will likely detect your language on its own.
Anxiety: There are only 3 options available in the navigation: Log In, Sign Up, and Help. None of these are helpful when a user is trying to navigate between key pages.
Clarity: Placing the call-to-action at the top of the page creates disjointed eyeflow. The user must scan the page from top to bottom to ensure their order is correct.
Clarity: The “Order Now” call-to-action and “Allergy & dietary information links” are very close together. Users may accidentally tap one, when they want to tap the other.
Anxiety: There is no confirmation of the delivery address.
Anxiety: There is no way to edit an order within the checkout. A user has to delete items, return to the menu and add new items.
Clarity: Font size is very small making the content difficult to read.
Clarity: The “Cash” and “Card” icons have no context. Is a user supposed to select one, or are these just the payment options available?
Distraction: The dropdown menus in the footer include many links that might distract a user from completing their order.
Needless to say, my frustrations were confirmed. The WiderFunnel team ran into the same obstacles I had run into, and identified dozens of barriers that I hadn’t.
But what does this mean for you?
When you are first analyzing your mobile experience, you should try to step into your user’s shoes and actually use your experience. Give your team a task and a goal, and walk through the experience using a framework like LIFT. This will allow you to identify usability issues within your user’s mobile context.
Every LIFT point is a potential test idea that you can feed into your optimization program.
Case study examples
This wouldn’t be a WiderFunnel blog post without some case study examples.
This is where we put ‘best mobile practices’ to the test. Because the smallest usability tweak may make perfect sense to you, and be off-putting to your users.
In the following three examples, we put our recommendations to the test.
Mobile navigation optimization
In mobile design in particular, we tend to assume our users understand ‘universal’ symbols.
But, that isn’t always the case. And it is certainly worth testing to understand how you can make the navigation experience (often a huge pain point on mobile) easier.
You can’t just expect your users to know things. You have to make it as clear as possible. The more you ask your user to guess, the more frustrated they will become.
– Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel
This example comes from an e-commerce client that sells artwork. In this experiment, we tested two variations against the original.
In the first, we increased font and icon size within the navigation and menu drop-down. This was a usability update meant to address the small, difficult to navigate menu. Remember the conversation about target size? We wanted to tackle the low-hanging fruit first.
With variation B, we dug a little deeper into the behavior of this client’s specific users.
Qualitative Hotjar recordings had shown that users were trying to navigate the mobile website using the homepage as a homebase. But this site actually has a powerful search functionality, and it is much easier to navigate using search. Of course, the search option was buried in the hamburger menu…
So, in the second variation (built on variation A), we removed Search from the menu and added it right into the main Nav.
Both variations beat the control. Variation A led to a 2.7% increase in transactions, and a 2.4% increase in revenue. Variation B decreased clicks to the menu icon by -24%, increased transactions by 8.1%, and lifted revenue by 9.5%.
Never underestimate the power of helping your users find their way on mobile. But be wary! Search worked for this client’s users, but it is not always the answer, particularly if what you are selling is complex, and your users need more guidance through the funnel.
Mobile product page optimization
Let’s look at another e-commerce example. This client is a large sporting goods store, and this experiment focused on their product detail pages.
On the original page, our Strategists noted a worst mobile practice: The buttons were small and arranged closely together, making them difficult to click.
There were also several optimization blunders:
Two calls-to-action were given equal prominence: “Find in store” and “+ Add to cart”
“Add to wishlist” was also competing with “Add to cart”
Social icons were placed near the call-to-action, which could be distracting
We had evidence from an experiment on desktop that removing these distractions, and focusing on a single call-to-action, would increase transactions. (In that experiment, we saw transactions increase by 6.56%).
So, we tested addressing these issues in two variations.
In the first, we de-prioritized competing calls-to-action, and increased the ‘Size’ and ‘Qty’ fields. In the second, we wanted to address usability issues, making the color options, size options, and quantity field bigger and easier to click.
Both of our variations lost to the Control. I know what you’re thinking…what?!
Let’s dig deeper.
Looking at the numbers, users responded in the way we expected, with significant increases to the actions we wanted, and a significant reduction in the ones we did not.
Visits to “Reviews”, “Size”, “Quantity”, “Add to Cart” and the Cart page all increased. Visits to “Find in Store” decreased.
And yet, although the variations were more successful at moving users through to the next step, there was not a matching increase in motivation to actually complete a transaction.
It is hard to say for sure why this result happened without follow-up testing. However, it is possible that this client’s users have different intentions on mobile: Browsing and seeking product information vs. actually buying. Removing the “Find in Store” CTA may have caused anxiety.
This example brings us back to the mobile context. If an experiment wins within a desktop experience, this certainly doesn’t guarantee it will win on mobile.
I was shopping for shoes the other day, and was actually browsing the store’s mobile site while I was standing in the store. I was looking for product reviews. In that scenario, I was information-seeking on my phone, with every intention to buy…just not from my phone.
Are you paying attention to how your unique users use your mobile experience? It may be worthwhile to take the emphasis off of ‘increasing conversions on mobile’ in favor of researching user behavior on mobile, and providing your users with the mobile experience that best suits their needs.
Note: When you get a test result that contradicts usability best practices, it is important that you look carefully at your experiment design and secondary metrics. In this case, we have a potential theory, but would not recommend any large-scale changes without re-validating the result.
Mobile checkout optimization
This experiment was focused on one WiderFunnel client’s mobile checkout page. It was an insight-driving experiment, meaning the focus was on gathering insights about user behavior rather than on increasing conversion rates or revenue.
Evidence from this client’s business context suggested that users on mobile may prefer alternative payment methods, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, to the standard credit card and PayPal options.
To make things even more interesting, this client wanted to determine the desire for alternative payment methods before implementing them.
The hypothesis: By adding alternative payment methods to the checkout page in an unobtrusive way, we can determine by the percent of clicks which new payment methods are most sought after by users.
We tested two variations against the Control.
In variation A, we pulled the credit card fields and call-to-action higher on the page, and added four alternative payment methods just below the CTA: PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Payments, and Google Wallet.
If a user clicked on one of the four alternative payment methods, they would see a message:
“Google Wallet coming soon!
We apologize for any inconvenience. Please choose an available deposit method.
Credit Card | PayPal”
In variation B, we flipped the order. We featured the alternative payment methods above the credit card fields. The focus was on increasing engagement with the payment options to gain better insights about user preference.
Note: For this experiment, iOS devices did not display the Google Wallet option, and Android devices did not display Apple Pay.
On iOS devices, Apple Pay received 18% of clicks, and Amazon Pay received 12%. On Android devices, Google Wallet received 17% of clicks, and Amazon Pay also received 17%.
The client can use these insights to build the best experience for mobile users, offering Apple Pay and Google Wallet as alternative payment methods rather than PayPal or Amazon Pay.
Unexpectedly, both variations also increased transactions! Variation A led to an 11.3% increase in transactions, and variation B led to an 8.5% increase.
Because your user’s motivation is already limited on mobile, you should try to create an experience with the fewest possible steps.
You can ask someone to grab their wallet, decipher their credit card number, expiration date, and ccv code, and type it all into a small form field. Or, you can test leveraging the digital payment options that may already be integrated with their mobile devices.
The future of mobile website optimization
Imagine you are in your favorite outdoor goods store, and you are ready to buy a new tent.
You are standing in front of piles of tents: 2-person, 3-person, 4-person tents; 3-season and extreme-weather tents; affordable and pricey tents; light-weight and heavier tents…
You pull out your smartphone, and navigate to the store’s mobile website. You are looking for more in-depth product descriptions and user reviews to help you make your decision.
A few seconds later, a store employee asks if they can help you out. They seem to know exactly what you are searching for, and they help you choose the right tent for your needs within minutes.
Imagine that while you were browsing products on your phone, that store employee received a notification that you are 1) in the store, 2) looking at product descriptions for tent A and tent B, and 3) standing by the tents.
Mobile optimization in the modern era is not about increasing conversions on your mobile website. It is about providing a seamless user experience. In the scenario above, the in-store experience and the mobile experience are inter-connected. One informs the other. And a transaction happens because of each touch point.
Mobile experiences cannot live in a vacuum. Today’s buyer switches seamlessly between devices [and] your optimization efforts must reflect that.
We wear the internet on our wrists. We communicate via chat bots and messaging apps. We spend our leisure time on our phones: streaming, gaming, reading, sharing.
And while I’m not encouraging you to shift your optimization efforts entirely to mobile, you must consider the role mobile plays in your customers’ lives. The online experience is mobile. And your mobile experience should be an intentional step within the buyer journey.
What does your ideal mobile shopping experience look like? Where do you think mobile websites can improve? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
These days, being able to produce video is becoming more of a necessity than a “nice-to-have” for online marketers. Check out these stats: Creating a video of a product increases the likelihood of a purchase by 144% Having a video on your homepage can increase conversion rates by 64-85%. 100 million hours of video was watched on Facebook just over a year ago. Guess what that number is now? As the figures show, video is the future, and video marketing is the key to the right promotion of your product or service. Lucky for us, the iPhone shoots beautiful video…