In a mobile industry, contractors have customers old and new who will be finding their website on a smartphone or tablet.
It goes without saying, therefore, that digital performance across mobile devices is crucial.
Mobile and tablet traffic to UK websites is now on a par with desktop so a mobile-friendly website could even boost your position in search engine results.
This development is particularly critical for the construction industry, with on-site staff, customers and suppliers who may only access the internet via smartphones.
Here are some top tips to help you create the best experience for your mobile and tablet audiences.
Your main website must be ‘responsive’
Smartphones and tablets come in all shapes and sizes.
A responsive website tailors the display for both current and future devices, scaling content to the appropriate screen size.
The impact can be a powerful force for user retention. For instance, we discovered that almost a quarter of BAM’s visitors were on mobile devices so we made their new website responsive, reducing the proportion of mobile visitors abandoning the site by over 10%.
Use finger-friendly design
Your design must consider how mobile users interact with touchscreens.
The most popular smartphone grip is with one hand, tapping with a single thumb.
So buttons and links should be large, with reasonable spaces between them and ideally placed at the bottom of the screen for added comfort.
Mobile completion of forms is particularly tedious. Users tend to be mistake-prone and slow at typing, so make the input fields large enough and only request essential information.
Focus on performance
64% of smartphone users expect websites to load in under four seconds.
To reduce abandonment, set a strict performance ‘budget’ (in terms of page size or load time) and make all design and development decisions with a mobile mind-set.
Choose ‘light’ technologies to suit the functionality required, and load pages in stages to raise the perceived speed.
The performance of BAM’s sustainability website was improved significantly by selecting a lightweight CMS framework, and disabling animation and parallax scrolling on mobile devices.
Images are a common cause of heavy, slow loading page, yet project photography is a fundamental part of many construction industry websites.
With the right techniques, image-led design is still possible. In creating BAM’s photography led corporate website, we determined if each image was necessary, then optimised, compressed and exported them before implementation.
Test, test and test again
Test your website throughout production with real users, on a variety of mobile devices.
Ideally, test the website while ‘on the move’, between the office and construction sites.
It’s the only way to get a sense of the real experience of your staff, customers and suppliers who’ll be using it.
Create apps for additional services
Mobile apps should only be developed if they offer an extra, mobile specific experience, such as accessing content offline when there’s an intermittent signal, or using device specific features like geo-location or the camera.
Specialist partitioners Optima needed a way to increase the efficiency of architects and contractors working on-site.
The iPad app we created offered a user-friendly way to browse the documents, animations, and video content needed to get the most out of their technical products.
The ‘year of mobile’ is finally here and construction industry websites need to be prepared. While the prospect of mobile optimisation may be daunting, it’s actually quite easy to achieve. Existing designs can even be ‘retrofitted’ to reduce the cost of the change.
Danny Bluestone is managing director of Cyber-Duck.