American Marketer


Optimize navigation and site search for your mobile audience

December 28, 2011


By Thierry Costa

When you are aiming your marketing efforts at a mobile audience, you have many decisions to make and many metrics to watch. Should you create a simple Web site or should you go all out and develop a feature-rich mobile application that consumers can download?

If you already have a mobile site or app, are you getting the results you have hoped for – or are conversions and time spent on-site falling below your targets?

Whatever decisions you are wrestling with for your mobile campaign, it is helpful to take a step back and make sure you have covered the basics of mobile navigation and site search.

Do not assume that what works on your Web site will work in the mobile setting. Computers and mobile devices do not function in the same manner.

For instance, if you use hover-over navigation options, then ensure this technique works on touchscreen devices. If it does not, provide an alternative navigation scheme.

Use refinements for faster navigation. Refinements make navigation and searching easier for visitors to your regular Web site, and they are even more important on a mobile site.

However, since mobile devices have a lot less space for navigation, you need to use different ways to present them.

One good presentation idea is a drop-down menu, which gives users full refinement capability while saving screen space by hiding them when they are not in use.

This helps reduce visual clutter on the mobile site, since visitors can view more products and content without having to scroll down.

Give the search box prominent placement and add a search box to the bottom of the page. On our customer Gotapparel’s mobile site, the search box takes up much of the space on the home page, which is smart placement – it should be more prominent than the search box would be on your regular Web site.

Also, given the limitations of mobile screens, you do not want to force visitors to hunt for a search box, especially if they have just completed a search and need to search again.

Adding a search box and navigation links to the bottom of the page allows them to easily continue exploring your site without having to scroll back up to the top.

Make navigation links large enough to use on a touchscreen. Most mobile devices use touchscreens, so make sure your links are big enough for your visitors to click on without accidentally navigating to a different link.

Visitors will find it frustrating if they have to try several times to reach the page they want.

Ensure site search results are relevant. Relevance is particularly important for mobile site search, since refinement choices may be limited – make every effort to ensure the results are relevant after visitors type in keywords.

Mobile users cannot or will not scroll through pages of results to find what they need.

Cut down on content in search results. Reduce information to the basics that visitors need to make a navigation choice.

Picture sizes should be as small as possible so as not to slow down page loads.

In addition, the mobile screen does not allow for lengthy product descriptions or the many site navigation links that you would find on normal search results pages.

List most popular items first. Odds are good that when visitors conduct searches on mobile devices, they are looking for a product that other people have successfully searched for.

Move the most popular results for a given search term to the top of the list, so that mobile users can convert faster.

Include product ratings and reviews. Consumers tend to use mobile devices when they are shopping, and they may want to access reviews on the spot.

User reviews can be the best way to give visitors the detail they need to make a purchasing decision, so add them to your mobile site. One of our customers, Motorcycle Superstore, includes star ratings for its products within search results pages.

Let customers check availability at local stores from site search results. Provide this as a link so that customers can enter a ZIP code and see which nearby locations might have the item in stock.

You can also take it a step further and allow shoppers to place item on hold, to be picked up at a later time.

Add social media content to search results. Blogs, Facebook Likes, Google +, and Twitter feeds allow shoppers to get a richer picture of the products you have on offer.

Thierry Costa is vice president of marketing at SLI Systems, San Jose, CA