December Program Recap - Mobile is the New Black

Asking your firm “How many website visitors did we disappoint today?” isn’t nearly as warm and fuzzy as touting all the great things you’re doing online. However, as Sonny Cohen, director of internet marketing strategy for Duo Consulting noted, it’s a question we should all be asking. In his presentation during the December LMA Midwest Luncheon, Cohen made clear the influence that mobile web is having on visitors’ experiences of law firm websites.
 
In 2011, the number of smartphones sold exceeded the number of PCs sold, and the trend is just ramping up. With more than 106 million smartphone users in the U.S. (up 18 percent since 2011), having a website that translates well on smartphones and other mobile devices is now a necessity in order to reach customers where they are surfing and provide an experience that does not disappoint.
 
We have all become accustomed to different experiences of our favorite sites on our computers compared to our mobile devices. From larger buttons to accommodate our “fat fingers” to readable fonts and bare-bones features, mobile users are coming to expect a smooth experience on these devices. According to Cohen, 55 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have a mobile “optimized” website, compared to 28 percent of the AmLaw 100 that offer a mobile “enabled” version of their website. He pointed to Baker & McKenzie as example of a firm with a truly-enabled law firm mobile website.
 
You wouldn’t tolerate dust bunnies in your firm’s lobby

While many people who visit law firm websites will do so on a mobile device as well as their personal computer, some visitors may only ever view your site on their smartphones or iPads. In that case, all of their perceptions of your firm’s site (which translates, to some degree, to their perceptions of your firm), will be based on their mobile experience. If website design has not adequately taken mobile users into consideration, many will have a sub-par experience. For the same reasons we wouldn’t let dust bunnies accumulate in a disheveled firm lobby, we should not ignore the impression we are sending mobile users.
 
The first steps, said Cohen, are knowing your clients and knowing your site analytics. Through analytics, you can discover how many people are currently visiting your site via mobile devices and see how that trend has progressed over the past year. Other metrics to consider are how long people are spending on your site, how many are leaving your site almost as quickly as they arrived (bounce rate), and how many pages people view when visiting the site.

So, you want a mobile friendly website?

You understand the importance of a friendly mobile experience. Now what?  “Mobile friendly” was a term Cohen used frequently during his presentation, but he was quick to note it is not a technical term, nor one that would mean much to a web developer (the same goes for “mobile enabled” and “mobile optimized”). The technical aspects of a website that is friendly to mobile users come down to components such as stylesheets, themes and interaction with a content management system. He discussed various approaches to developing a “mobile friendly” site, from the less-than-desirable auto mobilizers and static mobile sites, to stylesheets integrated with content management systems (CMS) and, best of all, responsive design. The problem with static mobile sites is, although they are easy to build, they are hard to maintain and require technical savvy to do so. If a site is integrated with a CMS, existing web content will flow into the mobile site, streamlining the process and enabling your mobile site to remain fresh.

Responsive design takes all of this to the next level, enabling the parameters of web content to change based on the size of a browser window. On a PC, the website will  be flush with content. On a smartphone, only those functions and information deemed essential will display. This requires content decisions to be made along with consideration of the user experience and information architecture. The foundation of  this kind of “mobile really friendly” site is the concept of “Mobile First” -- the idea that a website should be designed first for a mobile device (including only those tasks and items that viewers use most). As the size of the screen increases, the design can then expand to include more features.

A firm’s mobile strategy reaches beyond just the mobile site. He cautioned against spending too many resources on apps, which require continuous (read: costly and time-consuming) revision and updates. He also encouraged marketers to consider mobile users when sending email blasts, noting that  the best approach is shorter emails with links directly to content on the (mobile-friendly) website. He emphasized the importance of a firm-wide mobile strategy that takes into consideration the information security issues related to mobile devices.

He closed by providing the following resources to help marketers get jump start their mobile web projects:

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