Does mobile even matter to an A/E firm? We’re not selling french fries or Saturday matinees here. Most of our clients work in corporate environments, they’re accustomed to making large capital investments, and they spend a fair amount of time with a traditional computer. That said, as I see it, there are really two simple reasons that the mobile web needs to be top of mind for any A/E firm.
#1 — User Experience
I don’t know that we really need too many statistics on the growth of Internet-enabled smart phones, tablets and mobile devices. But, just to drive the point home — the sale of smartphones and tablets have been exceeding the sale of desktop and laptop computers since 2011. That’s 3 years ago.
Despite that, I’m willing to guess that mobile traffic is still a small percentage of your firm’s web traffic — likely as little as 10-15% of your traffic I’d bet (especially, if your site is just a showcase of your portfolio). But, you’re going to see that number change quickly. If you commit your firm to using your site to produce useful thought leadership to attract potential clients, I suspect you’ll see that number jump to as high as 30-40% quite soon — possibly as soon as 2015 (for more on what to expect from A/E firm websites in the future, download our eBook, The A/E Firm Website of 2015). So, this audience is going to grow for you and we need to think about how we best serve it.
That said, we can’t just shrink the site down to a smaller version of itself. We need to be mindful of the type of experience we’d like to deliver our mobile visitors because it’s not likely the same experience that our desktop users expect. In our experience, mobile users tend to be interested in different types and forms of content so we need to make their web tailored to them. After all, we’re an A/E firm, aren’t we all about how people interact with spaces and structures? Isn’t the mobile web just another space?
So, if we care at all about the experience our site visitors have, then it makes sense for mobile to be near the top of our web priority list.
#2 — Search Performance
Developing a site that provides an effective experience both for desktop and mobile users may sound like a smart undertaking, which it is, but will the effort to develop such a site be worth it? You’d be offering more value to your visitors and prospects from a mobile perspective, but will that truly impact you firm’s bottom line?
Now that we are in 2014, Google has begun to prioritize mobile friendly websites in search results from mobile devices. That means if a user is searching for something from their smartphone or tablet and your firm doesn’t offer a mobile version of your website, your site will be pushed down in search results below firms that do.
Offering a more engaging website experience for all the devices users could possibly be accessing your site from will not only provide more value for your visitors, but also keep your firm performing effectively in SEO — if you’re publishing content and thought leadership this will be a pretty big driver.
The Mobile Web and the A/E Firm Website of 2015
While many mobile sites only offer a limited experience of a firm’s full website, mobile users are doing more things — from watching videos and reading content to using tools and downloading eBooks and research reports. Basically, mobile users are increasingly doing many of the things they could if they came to a site from a desktop or laptop, and they’d like it to be equally accessible to them in a format that works for their device.
Here’s an idea of how I see A/E firm website experiences moving in relationship to the proliferation of devices:
- Responsive design will become the main delivery model for the mobile experience due to its ability to render different site experiences to different screen sizes.
- Leading edge firms’ websites will allow users to easily access both thought leadership and portfolio items with an experience tailored to the screen size and functionality of the device they’re using.
- But, the mobile versions of those websites won’t simply be “smaller versions” of a broader site. Smart firms will study analytics to determine what’s important to mobile visitors. They’ll “turn off” what’s not of interest and serve up different experiences based on what it knows of a user’s site behavior and the device they’re using. If a user accesses thought leadership regularly on a mobile device, the site will prioritize that type of content for the user when they access the site.
More Background on This Topic
- Creating a compelling web experience on all devices is one of the seven trends driving A/E firm website experiences. To access all seven, download our eBook, The A/E Firm Website of 2015.
- Should you develop a separate mobile site or a responsive site?
- HTML5 — The technology behind the scenes that drives a responsive site.