This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Develop in the Cloud, sponsored by AT&T. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Develop in the Cloud site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

What Mobile Users Want

A Google study offers lessons for site and app developers.

A new Google-sponsored study reveals what visitors to mobile sites are looking for, and the price to be paid if you don't give them what they want.

The study asked about 1,100 smartphone users (no tablets this time) what they liked and didn't like about sites they accessed on their mobile devices. The participants also took part in focus-group discussions and kept journals on what they actually did online using their mobile devices. The study concentrated on Websites (not apps), and commercial and retail sites at that. But the results offer lessons that anyone working in the mobile realm might profit from. has a good summary of the study's conclusions. Users want mobile sites to load fast, of course; the study found that 5 seconds is the slowest they will put up with. Over 7 in 10 users say it is important to them that a site is optimized for mobile devices. Two-thirds are more likely to buy, or to move forward in the sales process, from a mobile-friendly site they visit from their smartphone, than from one more suited to desktop browsing. And over half, 61 percent, dislike visiting non-mobile-friendly sites so much that they will bail out immediately and try to find what they are looking for somewhere else.

Of particular interest are the actions mobile users want to take once they arrive at a site. The most popular action by far is to get location or operating hours; 76 percent of respondents said this was important to them. These data should be front-and-center, not even one click away. Next most requested was a button to click to call the business: 61 percent wanted this option. (I wonder how many people want to call because they can't find the hours of operation, location, or directions?) Next was sending an email to the business (54 percent), followed by downloading an app (53 percent).

That latter data point speaks volumes about the momentum in the app market: comfortably over half of commercial Website visitors want to download your app.

A large majority of mobile users, 78 percent, want a button that takes them to the non-mobile version of the Website. This may seem counter-intuitive, given the strong preference for mobile-friendly sites noted above. But it makes sense if people want to drill down into the more detailed information -- such as product descriptions -- that might not work as well in a mobile format. This Apple support forum thread speaks to how common is the desire to get to the full Website from the mobile one.

These conclusions are common-sensical; no real surprises here. It's worth noting that users are growing increasingly particular and demanding in their use of the mobile Web, raising the stakes on businesses to give users what they are looking for. For mobile developers, it's more important than ever to know what users want.