Smartphones have become a way of life. With over 50 percent of all mobile users opting for smartphones, and over 40 percent of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, a mobile strategy is no longer just a consideration, it’s a necessary part of any digital campaign. It’s also something that is not going away. Another 1.2 billion smartphones are estimated to enter the market in just five years.
As such, we’ve noticed a blitz in mobile tactics with the political conventions these past few weeks and the presidential election around the corner. More and more political groups and news organizations are building mobile applications and using them to promote various, targeted issues. In 2008, we saw this with the Obama campaign and a few media outlets. But, in four years this has become even more prevalent as smartphones saturate the mobile device market compared to 2008 when AT&T was the only official iPhone carrier and Samsung was just starting to copy their design.
This summer, the DNC, Romney campaign, Washington Post and a host of news organizations have launched their own campaign specific apps. Mobile apps are the most commonly known tactic, but not the only one for creating a mobile friendly campaign or website strategy. You just have to do some research and know what will work best for you. Outlined below are a few of the options we consider when planning campaigns for our clients.
Mobile Web Theme
To make web content more accessible to mobile audiences, one option is to create an additional web theme, designed specifically for mobile devices. A mobile theme is a layout which is formatted for mobile devices and easier to navigate. This is typically accomplished by establishing a mobile subdomain, such as mobile.website.com or m.website.com, that visitors are automatically redirected to when using their mobile devices. Using multiple themes offers content publishers granular control over standard and mobile presentations of the site, and can accommodate dramatic differences in layout, content and functionality where needed in order to display content in the most accessible and easy-to-navigate manner for users.
Responsive Web Design
A responsive web design is part of the original design and development of a site so that when accessed across devices the site adapts to fit the screen. This is possible because under responsive design principles, the same content is served consistently to everyone, and it is ‘smart’ enough to know how best to present itself depending on which device the user is viewing the site. Because all content displays derive from a single source, and do not require subdomains as is the case with mobile web themes, responsive design benefits content publishers by simplifying the publishing workflow. Responsive web designs provide unified, highly accessible content, and avoid complications that can be introduced by alternative approaches.
A mobile app is a stand-alone application that is written for and must be installed on specific operating systems–most commonly iOS (iPhone), Android, and BlackBerry. Apps are especially effective at performing unique functions and handling particular features, events or topics. Apps have the advantage of not being constrained by the limitations of a web browser, but also introduce a higher barrier of access to the audience as they need the necessary operating system to use it.
Even if you just create basic responsive pages for the sections of your website with the highest traffic, that is more helpful than having nothing. Think about how many times you have left a site or searched elsewhere when you can’t pull it up on your phone while standing in line at Starbucks, walking to the bus or just sitting at the airport. Probably quite a few, and don’t you wish there were more options? Now apply this to your audience and consider what they would find useful. Are you hosting an event? Maybe a mobile-friendly schedule would be helpful? Asking people to sign a petition? Make it responsive so they can sign it on the go. Whatever it is, keep mobile in mind as you plan the rest of your digital campaign.