Mobile Design: Keep it Simple, Stupid

Q. Boyer

For several years now, there has been well-documented consumer migration from fixed web browsing on desktop devices to mobile web surfing using phones, tablets and other mobile devices. While some of the more aggressive predictions made five to seven years ago held that mobile surfing would overtake desktop surfing by this year (a prediction that has proven untrue), the migration still has been significant, and as more consumers adopt mobile devices as their web-browsing mechanism of choice, optimizing your mobile site and app designs is becoming ever more important.

When it comes to design advice, the experts queried by XBIZ World are unanimous in placing design simplicity at the very top of the list of recommendations.

Simple changes to the way in which content is presented, in the way mobile sites are structured, in how the navigation is set up and in being able to separate, target and convert both browsers and searchers has shown to increase conversation rates by up to 50 percent. —Julia Dimambro, CEO of Cherry Media

“Simplicity in mobile design should not be an either/or scenario; all mobile design should follow a simple design layout, period,” said Terry Jackson, CEO of AdultModa. “The adult mobile market is dominated by streaming or download services, so the design framework surrounding these service needs be as simple as possible so that bandwidth is not leeched from page loads.”

Julia Dimambro, CEO of Cherry Media, noted that her company operates a system they call “digital erotic retailing” that amounts to a collection of mobile conversion strategies that are based on mobile data collected over the last 11 years, and said that the data definitively demonstrates that simplification in mobile design and layout are greatly beneficial to sales performance.

“Simple changes to the way in which content is presented, in the way mobile sites are structured, in how the navigation is set up and in being able to separate, target and convert both browsers and searchers has shown to increase conversation rates by up to 50 percent,” Dimambro said.

Patrick Schavier, senior manager of Mobile Marketing for Gold Kiwi Media, told XBIZ that in the context of adult mobile marketing, it is “more important to catch the eyes than the brain.”

“If mobile pages are overloaded with shiny, flashing stuff, everybody gets distracted,” Schavier said. “Mobile porn pages should show the theme (MILF, teen, etc.) with a few nice pictures and that’s it. If you can catch the customer on the first page, all other information can be communicate later, after payment.”

Of course, it also pays to keep an eye on mobile trends like device marketshare, as well as the details of how that marketshare varies on per-market basis, particularly with respect to the continuing prominence of feature phones in emerging markets, and to consider these elements when crafting your mobile sites and apps.

SexGoesMobile CEO Andy Wullmer noted that while marketshare remains high for Apple’s iOS devices, “Android is really surging ahead, much of which is related to the fact that Android has a strong position in the emerging markets.”

“The overall market volume growth (in emerging markets) immediately contributes to the importance of Android,” Wullmer said. “From an adult perspective, it is worthy of note that at this time Android regulations are still somewhat more relaxed than in the Apple space. Windows phones I’d definitely qualify as a runner-up.

“If you are asking if I’d put Windows on the radar, my answer is a definitive yes, though the main business efforts should be still focused on iOS and Android.”

AdultModa’s Jackson observed that while the smartphone and mobile device marketshare information is interesting and must be considered, one also has to keep in mind the significant restrictions in place where adult content is concerned, and to focus your company’s mobile development efforts accordingly.

“There is no point in creating apps for the adult market unless it is for Android, and the only way to get good high exposure to Android apps is by buying traffic,” Jackson said. “The limited app stores for porn cannot provide large volumes. Windows phones are coming up the rear, so to speak, but not worth developing exclusively for.

“The best options for smartphones is to focus on mobile web, not apps, and to design cross-platform using something like HTML5. If you want to tackle emerging markets, do not ignore feature phones which still outstrip smartphones in quantity.”

Dimambro concurred with Jackson, noting that in the adult mobile market, the smart companies are the ones “developing their business via mobile web and HTML5 for the greatest reach.”

Of course, not all adult companies are smart, and if one looks around the adult mobile market for mistakes and missteps, unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to spot a fairly widespread set of major blunders on the part of mobile designers and mobile marketers. Asked to identify the most common mistake he has observed on the market, Wullmer summed it up in two words: “Design overcrowding.”

“Mobile apps are generally used in an environment of shorter attentions spans and more distractions,” Wullmer said. “Contrast of visual design may be impaired by external lighting. In short, one should prioritize ease of operations over offering a variety of choices.”

Schavier echoed Wullmer, saying that adult mobile designers should not “try to make it to beautiful.”

“Avoid great animations, scripts and stuff like that,” Schavier said. “This all slows down the performance, and you cannot expect all customers are using the latest devices. I recommend to keep it simple and concentrate on the relevant, key facts of your page.”

Jackson noted the importance of shortening the chain between the user’s arrival on your mobile site or app, and actions like purchasing or viewing content, adding that this often results from a desire on the part of the site owner to “put everything they’ve got on the site.”

“It’s like a restaurant with a 20-page menu where customers only ever order 10 percent of what’s on it,” Jackson said. “The ‘less-is-more’ philosophy could not be more appropriate than for mobile web design. Don’t design a product that you want or like; design a product that your users will want and like.”

As for what’s coming next in mobile design and in terms of broader mobile market trends, each of the respondents pointed to different shifts and developments, ranging from recent technical innovations that could have a significant impact on mobile content consumption to policy changes at Google that could fundamentally alter the way the search giant indexes adult sites, mobile or fixed.

‘The new Google restrictions relating to adult content will definitely have a huge impact on the industry,” Dimambro said. “The one saving grace with Android, unlike iOS, is that you can sell apps and services for Android from any location, not just the on-deck app store. Gradually people looking for adult apps will know they have to go ‘off-store’ to get anything decent, but it will take time, and few companies have already had their businesses wiped out by this latest change.”

Jackson pointed out that regardless of what direction the market takes, mobile operators must take the initiative, and make sure that they are doing what they can to observe and analyze the data available to them.

“Analytics and tracking, which are already essential in the mainstream market, will play a much bigger role in the adult mobile space,” Jackson said. “Those who are serious about buying and selling mobile traffic will not be able to do so effectively without it.”