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Our Path to Supporting Mobile

In June of 2012, I attended An Event Apart – Boston for the first time. Sitting through the sessions – I felt like I had struck gold! I was soaking up all the do’s and don’ts that others in the industry had figured out, through their own trial and error as they moved to responsive and mobile platforms for their websites.

With their tips and tricks, I had a jumpstart to understanding the pitfalls and successes that others have seen while transitioning websites to support a whole new world of interactions with users.

Coming back to the office – I was eager to jump into the process of figuring out our own do’s and don’ts for improving the user experience for the 40% (and growing) of visitors to our websites. Here are some of the big learnings we’ve had, as we’ve tested and optimized our check out funnels for mobile:

1) It’s not all about looks – give serious thought to the engine supporting your site

The first phase of creating mobile interaction for our users had nothing to do with wireframes, font sizes, or how to interact with the content. The very first thing on the list: update our backend architecture to support the places we want to go with our frontend decisions. For our team, this first phase included completely rebuilding our website architecture to a webservices format. This change was the gateway to the flexibility we want to have available in our mobile designs.  This wasn’t a quick change. To get our backend architecture to the right place, we had to dedicate serious time and extensive resources to concepting, building out, launching, and optimizing our new website architecture. By making this change, we’ve now fine-tuned elements of our backend architecture such as page load, site speed, and webservice response. By dedicating time and attention to your backend systems, you’ll avoid the common pitfall of designing the prettiest mobile page known to man – only for your users to see the dreaded loading wheel:

 

2) Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

Since launching our first mobile checkout in April 2013, the numbers are speaking volumes about what works with users and what doesn’t. We let the numbers (not our personal opinions about look and feel) drive how often and how dramatically we iterate. For our first version we opted for more pages in the checkout process to decrease the amount of scrolling the user would need to do. In looking at the metrics after we launched, the fallout from page to page was large enough, that  we focused version 2 on consolidating pages and expanding the amount of scrolling. With some strong improvements in conversion with Version 2, we’re currently designing Version 3 – which will focus on more intuitively placing the steps of the checkout process, to build commitment to the purchase as the user works through the checkout funnel.

Version 1:


   

 

Version 2:


3) Talk, talk, talk

As we embarked on this ongoing build-out and optimization for our mobile users 18 months ago, we’ve found that a key ingredient to innovating is regularly talking with those who have invested interests in the build out. This isn’t rocket science, but it can quickly shift the paradigm of your team from “launch and move on” to “constantly looking for the next big thing”. Every two weeks, we huddle with usability experts, frontend gurus, and backend geniuses on our team and we give ourselves 30 minutes to talk about a handful of things related to moving the mobile experience forward. In each meeting we cover these basics:

  • Check in with the numbers: How are the metrics looking? Are there any stats that we want to focus on improving?
  • What’s in the works:  Discuss what’s currently in progress being built and developed.  This allows the cross functional team to stay up to speed on what will be launching and when. Also, any new discoveries and challenges found during the build out can be shared and discussed with the group.
  • New Ideas:  If the sky’s the limit – what could we do next? By providing the time for this conversation, brainstorming reaches a whole new level with stakeholders suggesting improvements and updates for all different angles.
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