We talk much about optimization of websites and mobile applications for an enhanced and highly positive user experience, and for good reason. After all, study after study shows that poor experiences and difficulty in finding information or resources has a negative effect on customer loyalty and, ultimately, brand reputation.
When I visit a brand’s site on my mobile device, odds are high that I’ve been on the desktop site previously, which means I have a certain expectation as I enter the URL into my mobile browser or open the branded mobile app. Naturally, there are sacrifices that must be made when it comes to mobile real estate (though likely fewer in the mobile browser than in the app world, given the browser can be stretched and pinched). Still, as a user – and especially a frequent user or visitor – I become accustomed to a certain look and feel on the site, and I expect a very similar experience whether at my desk, on my mobile phone, or tablet.
Often, it becomes less about what information is displayed on the different sites than where and how it’s shown. When a user knows where to find things in one environment, the expectation is for a similar experience in other environments. In fact, perhaps too much emphasis is placed on mobile optimization rather than consistency of experience.
So, as much as customer service teams and organizations are directed and trained to provide consistent experiences across their different channels, the designers and programmers that create the digital experiences should have the same mandate.
Mobile apps are an interesting question, since they inherently cannot have the same features and flexibility as a full-blown site. But, users also know that, and recognize that apps perform certain functions very well and, for other tasks, other apps or the full site is required. For instance, CBS Sports has separate apps for its news and fantasy content, because the limited real estate actually does impact usability, but the functionality is limited to a specific user group with specific requirements.
When building your mobile site, do it with the idea of mirroring your desktop site as closely as possible. And, when building out mobile apps, do that with a specific, logical purpose. Don’t try to do too much with a single app.
Take a look at Best Buy (News - Alert), which has a fairly easy-to-use desktop site, and a mobile site and app that provide nearly the same shopping experience, despite have a slightly different initial look than the desktop site. On the other hand, many sports media sites have failed in replicating their desktop experiences within the mobile and app environments. Take the CBS Sports apps and mobile site – neither even remotely resembles the desktop site and, unless you’re looking for one of the top stories of the day. Speaking of challenging, if you’re a fantasy sports aficionado, don’t expect much from the CBS Sports mobile app – though labeled as being able to football, basketball, and baseball leagues, I’ve yet to find a way to get beyond football. Yahoo! Has done a much better job with its fantasy app, and ESPN (News - Alert) is leaps and bounds ahead with its mobile site.
But, the real source of this thought process for me was the usual corporate punching bag: airlines. In this case, it’s American Airlines, which has failed to execute a full integration of its resources with the merged US Airways. It’s exciting that both airlines’ flights are listed when searching for travel options. But, as any traveler knows, seat availability is key, and AA has yet to integrate enough with the US Airways system to be able to display seat availability – or to allow seat selection when purchasing tickets, for that matter.
If you have multiple sites in play, the need for consistency of experience becomes even greater, though the integration of different sites is often a challenge. The good news for AA is it is part of an industry that, as a whole, largely fails to live up to customer expectations.
Still, whether across devices, networks, screen sizes, or even brands, consistency of experience is becoming increasingly important and business in all verticals will be wise to recognize that, just as customer service teams must be flexible enough to accommodate various communications options, so too must web and mobile experience teams. There will be several session related to brand awareness, consistency of experience, and mobile service at ITEXPO (News - Alert) Las Vegas. I hope to see you there!
Edited by Stefania Viscusi