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Mobile Use and Association Web Sites

Recently I was speaking with someone that probably is more mobile access oriented than I am and she was thinking that perhaps mobile use should drive the redesign of their association’s web site.

It was time to rephrase the suggestion. The association’s web site should reflect how members and prospective clients – whether they be future members, advertisers, or other types of partners – need to interact with the association. Needs are different from association to association.  Are they going to be driven to communicate with the association through a mobile device? If so, what will they be doing? What do they need from a transitory device, versus a stationary device?

What, in short, will they be doing on the web site? What is driving them to access the site in the first place? And what do the analytics numbers say currently about what visitors are doing on the site?

There is a danger relying solely on analytics numbers when looking at your site from a mobile user point of view, particularly if your site isn’t particularly set up for easy mobile usage. Lack of ease can translate into less use. How much of a reduction of use is hard to say and dependent on the drive to the site. But it can still provide some of the most valuable information you have for thinking of your site from the mobile perspective. For example, if you look at the most recent six month Device Category report of your site (you’ll find it under Audience>>Mobile>>Overview) compared to the previous six months, are there any big changes in the numbers Sessions using desktop, mobile and tablet? Percentages of growth or decline?

There’s no magic number, but if you start to see a quarter or more of your traffic specifically coming from mobile it should be very hard to minimize the needs of that traffic, particularly if that number has grown noticeably from the previous six months. Tablet can be different – the visual experience is very similar to the desktop. But mobile usually means smartphones, with smaller screens. Why is that much traffic using their phone to come to your site? That’s the next question you’ll need to answer.

The answer(s) to that question can be complex or obvious. Sometimes email or social media campaigns can push a lot of mobile traffic to a web site, so if your site has been involved in such, that could be a large part of the answer. Sometimes your content is just more valuable to the mobile user than it is to the desktop user because of need – for example, an address of a conference, or the schedule of mass transit, etc. Sometimes it is a case of mistaken identity – your acronym could be the same as a more common mobile search, and you get visits due to that. The numbers can help you figure it out – but your knowledge of both your organization and your membership’s activities will help bring numbers into clearer detail.

If you determine that your organization has web pages that are well used by mobile visitors, you’ll probably want to look to provide a specific mobile menu system that provides a different look than your primary web site appearance. This will allow for visitors to find the items of mobile importance easily and not be challenged by small navigation fonts and tiny areas in which to select a link. It will also give your site the ability to pare primary navigation options if desired.

Whatever you do, don’t do anything without consulting your site’s analytics and trying to do some logical assessment of what it means first. Otherwise you may be making changes that really don’t help your visitors at the labor cost of effort that could benefit users based on that analysis.

Kessler Freedman, Inc.