Mobile content refers to any type of electronic media which is viewed on mobile devices, such as mobile feature phones, smartphones, tablets and laptops. This blog post focuses on website content viewed on smartphones.
Delivering content about destinations on the smartphone is challenging for two reasons. First of all, the smartphone is very powerful, but still constrained due to the small size of the screen, patchy connectivity and the limited processing and battery power.
Secondly, tourists are probably the most challenging target user group, as they require extensive amount of spatial, timely and updated information.
The mobile device provides a huge opportunity for destinations, travel and tourism businesses to deliver a more personal, private, relevant and timely message to users. The key to success? Content.
Delivering the right content, at the right time and place engages customers and can enhance their experience with a destination.
Keeping in mind that content can damage the reputation of a brand, it is really essential that we look at the individual elements and what experiences they create for the final user. Improving the overall content structure and presentation and how users navigate between different information pieces will not only help you unleash a hidden traffic source, but improve your overall competitiveness.
Mobile-friendly content will help you connect with customers, generate leads, increase and improve awareness and come closer to your mobile strategy goals.
Here we will have a look at some of the best practices and pitfalls for delivering content on mobile devices in five main categories (Home page, Multimedia, Navigation, Search, Information presentation / Formatting).
Most destinations and tourism business do not have a mobile website yet. The results from our 2014 Destinations Benchmark show that out of 54 NTOs in Europe, less than half (20) have a mobile optimised website. Out of those 20, only 9 manage to implement best practices and deliver an overall positive mobile user experience.
Once you go through the descriptions on this page you can also DOWNLOAD OUR REFERENCE CARDS (The 5 Minutes Checklist for Your Mobile Content). The reference cards provide a quick checklist which will help you investigate, reflect and improve your mobile content.
Home page / Landing page content
Mobile users are often impatient, have limited time and can rarely focus attention for more than a couple of minutes on any page. This is why the content delivered on the mobile website has to immediately address their needs.
The mobile website homepage is the best place to deliver alluring content (e.g. special offers) with a clear call to action (e.g. Book now). It should feature timely and updated information, which will give a good overview of returning users for the new articles on the website, but will also give a reason for users to come back to the website regularly and check for updated content. To top it all, the home page should also provide a good overview of the available content.
Clearly, the challenge is to cram all of that content into the very restricted space that mobile screens offer. However, providing too little information and a lot of empty space might also be confusing as it can mislead the user that the website has not loaded properly.
The mobile websites VisitDenmark.com and IncredIbleindia.org provide excellent examples of the principle. Visit Denmark delivers a lot of information on the homepage, which features dynamic panels and image carousels with clear call to actions. The content is well structured and logically organised and can be scanned easily to provide an overview of the most recent information. On the other hand, when Incredible India’s website loads, it shows an image and clearly looks as though the content has not loaded properly.
It is a general rule of thumb that the home page (as well as all other pages) should be easy to read and overview in both landscape and portrait modes. In both situations, the content should fit the screen, without forcing users to pinch or zoom. If this happens, they might miss out on seeing important call to action features, or relevant content.
Including images, videos, maps and 360 degree panoramas can improve and enhance the users’ experience with a travel and tourism website. Something that has to be remembered, however, is that images are worth a thousand words only if they load quickly. A slow mobile website might lead to annoyed and confused users. Therefore, you should make sure to use simple compressed images for faster loading.
Apart from speed, and with the risk to sound obvious, make sure that all image load properly. While PolandTravel.com features high-quality images, some of them often do not load. Scaling images to both portrait and landscape modes is a must. The use of captions, such as the ones on VisitFinland.com, can encourage users to explore further content.
The use of background images is a good alternative to display high-quality content. However, complex and visually attractive photos can make the small mobile page look even more cluttered, especially when it already features a lot of content. The Events page on GoToHungary.com is an example of how things could quickly go wrong.
In addition, images have to load properly on the page. Out of screen images that force users to pinch and swipe are a real show-stopper. For instance, polandtravel.com feature brilliant images, however, very often they do not scale well and are left outside the image area. The effect is lost. Providing clear captions might enhance the image and make the message even stronger and VisitFinland.com provides an excellent example of this.
Formatting and presentation
Even if you have worked meticulously with your team to reduce the amount of text, images, buttons and menus, it is still essential that you think about the way in which this information is presented.
It is essential to make content easy to scan and read. A good solution is to make paragraphs very short with relevant and catchy headings and sub-headings. Compare the text delivered on VisitNorway.com and GotoHungary.com.
The long paragraphs and the fact that the content spans up to the edges of the page makes the text on GoToHungary.com very difficult to scan and read. On the other hand, the content on VisitNorway is very easy to scan quickly.
This principle applies to desktop websites as well, but is often overlooked on mobile, where it is even more important in view of the little time and patience mobile users have.
Another very suitable solution is to separate content into panels and provide summaries and synthesis through lists, both of which are used on the website of VisitSweden.com, making it very easy to scan and overview.
A different solution for providing a quick overview for a substantial amount of content is the use of tabs, which expand when the user taps on them to provide only the information which is most interesting and relevant at the current moment. This option is used on MySwitzerland.com website.
Navigation on the mobile device is central to positive user experiences. It should be immediately obvious how to access relevant information with only a few taps.
Primary and secondary navigation on mobile websites is one of the most challenging aspects, especially in view of the fact that travel and tourism businesses and organisations often have to deliver a lot of content to satisfy the needs of a wide audience.
Similar to desktop websites, different parts of the website should be accessible quickly through a primary navigation menu which should be visible from all pages. Users generally expect to find this primary navigation menu at the top of the web page. However, if the menu is too big, it might easily take up the whole screen. This is the case with the mobile website of Albania Tourism (albaniatourism.com). The problem is that since the menu takes up the whole screen, the user is left wondering whether content has loaded.
This problem is solved successfully on many websites by hiding the primary navigation menu under the “three-line” button. This button has practically become ubiquitous on mobile websites and it is a great tool for providing a quick access to a drop-down menu. Slovakia Travel (slovakia.travel) is an excellent example of how this button can be used to provide navigation to users.
Built-in Search and Forms
Studies have shown that 3 out of every 5 search queries is generated from a mobile device, which indicates that search is a very important functionality for mobile devices. When mobile, people often do not have time to go through all of the content on your mobile website and this is why built-in search is critical to deliver relevant content to customers.
Users often expect to find the search bar at the top or bottom of the web page. Apart from placing it in either corner of the website, it is also important to make the search box (button) easy to spot.
Easier said than done. Consider the location and size of the search bar on IncredibleIndia’s website. The search box is very small, located in the middle of the page and might easily be missed out.
Ireland's official tourism website (Ireland.com) takes a different approach. The search button (which expands in a search box when tapped) is easy to notice and available from all pages on the website.
Apart from search, it should be easy for users to fill in forms when registering or logging into their own account, when looking for accommodation, events, or using the advanced search to find interesting activities.
Typing is difficult on a virtual keyboard, and this is why pre-set lists of categories make filling in forms easier. When users are presented with a lot of choices, which are alphabetically ordered and they know what features they are looking for (e.g. change language) using a slider or a picker makes selection faster (e.g. discoveramerica.com), rather than a long list which take up more than 5 screens (e.g. gotohungary.com).
If you are interested to learn more about delivering content on mobile devices, have a look at the following pages:
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Our team can work with you to determine whether your mobile content works for you towards achieving your mobile goals. Have a look at our Expert Mobile Evaluation or Mobile Benchmark, or give us a call to discuss your needs.
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