Category Archives: ILiveMobile

Re/Max NJ: You’re not doing it wrong…but you could be doing it better

So on my way down the Garden State Parkway to the Jersey shore this past weekend, I pulled into the infamous Cheesequake rest area (my personal favorite) to get some gas and a drink for the remainder of the trip. In pulling in, I was greeted by a giant sign for Re/Max NJ. What a great idea – not only would those signs target prospective homebuyers but also possible new agents…AND people both traveling within and through NJ – kind of making them a customer and employee acquisition tool. The URL was prominently displayed at the bottom of the sign, So I pulled out my phone and went to the URL, half expecting a non-mobile site to come up. But to my surprise, a mobile formatted site showed up and loaded pretty quickly. OK we’re getting there! (note: I was the passenger on this trip, so wasn’t texting while driving :))

So here’s the part that I would have normally posted into my ‘You’re doing it wrong’ category, but hey they had a mobile site, so I can’t go too hard on them. Sure the form fields are pretty small on my iPhone 4, the interface elements could be a bit larger. Like 40% larger. I’m sure some creative director talked about everything being above ‘the fold’ instead of being clickable with anything but an infant’s thumb or an electrostatic-enabled pencil eraser.  Call me progressive but personally I prefer usability over keeping design and UI elements within the ‘fold’ as the fold is different on devices and changes based on rotation. Plus thumb-scrolling is pretty widely accepted in getting to the bottom of a page (and its quick too). And, if coded reasonably well a text-entry dialog will have a ‘search’ button clickable after entering text.  But hey at least its mobile-friendly which is more I can say about most sites I visit.

Moving right along, so from the search page I check a few boxes then click SEARCH. My mouse pointer returns to the ‘Enter City, Zip, Address or MLS#’ form field. I figure maybe I missed the miniature button, so I carefully take aim and click again. Same thing. So here I am at a NJ rest stop, I haven’t a clue what city I am in (apparently Cheesequake isn’t a city as it returned an error), no idea about the present zip code, and based on the lack of knowledge regarding the previous two options it’s safe to assume that knowing an address is out of the question. I won’t even comment on MLS#. All I want is a listing of properties nearby that match the checkboxes I’ve selected (Single-Family, Condo/Townhouse, Multi-Family) and I can’t execute a search.

To make matters a tad worse, my second thought above was what a great recruitment tool this would be. Sadly there wasn’t even a mention of ‘Join our Team!’ or anything similarly upbeat and aimed at recruiting new Re/Max talent. Anyone reading this that runs a business knows the cost of finding talent; with the awareness and sheer eyeballs seeing this sign, I see that as another lost opportunity.

Anyway the title of this here entry includes ‘…you could be doing it better’ so here goes. First, let me search. Sure it taxes your database just a tad more to allow me to do a search without any text in the search box, but give me some results. Even if the empty box search returns some featured properties (maybe with some tools to refine my search), do something to put some property information on the screen for me. I got to the site, you have my attention for 15-30 seconds. Something…anything. Red error message text generally results in me clicking the top right button and putting the phone back into my pocket, or switching back to Words with Friends.

This leads me into fix #2. The mobile device is good at a few things – making calls, sending texts…and knowing its location. So fix number 2 is…(drum roll)…PUT A GPS SEARCH ON IT! People from all over travel the Garden State Parkway, help them find properties. Each rest area may have different results, it could be fun. You could even make a contest out of it if you wanted. Regardless, put a (damn) GPS search on the page and show me properties near this place where I’m getting food, gas, and generally killing a few minutes before I hop back on the road. Or lets combine 1 and 2 here – if my search field is blank, prompt me for my GPS location. Kill two birds with one stone (or query in this case). You get my drift here.

Rant aside, it’s a shame because lack of a mobile strategy and planning is certainly turning business (and possibly talent) away from Re/Max NJ. They have great billboards with great visibility. The billboards are all new (I didn’t see them last trip) and they’re BIG. While reading this some folks will probably say ‘well yea but we want to drive people to our website.’ That’s great! But let me know if anyone has their PC rigged into their car so they can view the full site in the few minutes they have between highway hauls. Or instead rely on the memory retention of GSP drivers after having seen hundreds of miles of advertisements…I doubt many of them will get home, unpack, and remember to go to the URL they saw on the sign (what was that website again?).

The really bad news here for Re/Max NJ is they have someone like me seeing the sign, thumbing in the URL and getting to the site – and all they’re getting is a bounce. I’m sure those signs, and the space on which they’re built weren’t cheap. I’m the target demographic, and I may even be looking for a small summer home on the Jersey shore…with no way for me to find it they missed their opportunity. But alas, next year around his time I’ll be going back down to the shore, hopefully by then they’ll have read this article and either fixed their mobile site or brought on an actual mobile vendor to do it correctly – instead of a web vendor who builds a miniature website to say that they ‘do mobile’.

Or, maybe by then I’ll be driving to my summer home which I’ve found between now and then.

Surf vs. Splash

We’ve all ‘surfed’ the web at some point or another. I remember being in high school and first hearing the phrase surfing the web. At the time I was a tad puzzled, what do they mean? Are masses of people doing something differently than I am? Of course they weren’t, we were all glued to our computers, soaking up content like never before, site after site, screen after screen – I was just not too familiar with the jargon of this new medium. A decade or so later most if not all of us are still surfing the web, but instead of black and blue text on a white page we have games, videos, networks and more to keep our digital wetsuits on.

Enter the mobile device, all shiny and hooked up to the same web our desktop and laptop computers communicate with constantly. When on your mobile device are you surfing the web? I don’t think so. To me, from a mobile device, you’re ‘splashing’ the web. As I recently explained it to some partners of ours, surfing is an involved process – you go out into the water, ride a wave, go back out, ride another, etc. That behavior is very similar with how we interact with the web via our computers and laptops; find a site, consume it, back to the search engine, find another site, and so on. But with mobile it tends to be a far less deep experience. Sure most mobile splashing starts with a search engine, but rarely do mobile users go deeper than a page or two. They get their information then ‘leave the water’ so to speak…its less about consuming content, but more about getting what you need then phone off, in the pocket, back to reality.

The ever lurking presence of reality, and the limitations of the mobile interface are why we splash the web via the mobile device. Remember, in most cases reality is around you while on the mobile web. While on your computer you’re at home, in a controlled environment where you can minimize distractions and focus on whatever content you choose. When using a mobile device, you’re in a train station, walking down a street, in between meetings, etc. You dip in and dip out – or to stay true to the metaphor, splash in and splash out.

So beyond all the metaphors here, its important to remember surf vs. splash when architecting information and designing interfaces for the mobile user. Keep it simple, try to predict why the mobile user is coming to the site (hint, its usually an address, phone number, or information on a product or service). Develop your mobile site to prominently display your brand, make all of your great content and information available – but make sure that user with 15 seconds to take her eyes off of the sidewalk is able to splash your site, get what she needs, then get back to reality.

Borgata Poker…You’re Doing It WRONG!

This one broke my heart – in more than one way. So any of you who know me know Im a poker player. I have the attention span of an unmedicated 3 year old with ADHD after drinking four red bulls, yet i can spend countless hours at a poker table drinking bad beer and studying every nuance of the 9 overweight and bacterially unsound fellows at my table. I don’t know why actually, i just fell in love with the game when i was young, playing for pennies with my mother and grandfather. Living close to Atlantic City and Upper CT, i have poker player cards to virtually all AC casinos as well as Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, and receive trees worth of mailings from them each year.

The other day i received a nice glossy piece from Borgata, advertising their 2,500 buy in no-limit hold ’em event. To my surprise, i saw a QR code on it! Now they’ve used texting for a while (as have Foxwoods and some others), but this was the first QR code i’ve seen – peep it!

So, all giddy i grabbed my iPhone and scanned it. After scanning it i just laughed out loud…the Borgata, the epicenter of poker in NJ and one of the classiest and most luxorious casinos on the east coast – with one of the best websites and some of the greatest marketing around…WAS DOING IT WRONG. Here is the result of my scan:

Their QR code was supposed to set up an SMS, yet on the iPhone it was an epic fail…apparently their agency didn’t realize that iPhone doesn’t support that SMSTO syntax. I dont know if it wasn’t tested, or if their agency just doesn’t care, but on that day the Borgata dropped about 10 points in my mind. They’re now a notch below Trump Marina, and just edging out Resorts in terms of lameness.

This sort of thing is unacceptable. We just deployed a campaign for a major (MAJOR) brand, and they wanted a QR to resolve to an SMS. Unlike Borgata’s agency who either doesn’t care about or doesn’t understand mobile user experience, we created a routine that actually worked, instead of throwing some slop against the wall and likely charging far too much for it.

Im thinking they probably sent tens of thousands of this piece out to poker players. Some bean counter probably expected some result, but that bean counter is in for a surprise…not a single iPhone who scanned that can participate. They’re pretty much saying ‘hey you’re our customer, but if you have an iPhone screw you, you can’t use our QR codes.’

Its one thing to do it wrong accidentally, but this is a clear case of negligence, not thinking, not testing, and delivering crap to your client under the guise of pretending you know what you’re doing. A story written by my business partner John Lim called ‘can you trust your geek‘ hits on some of these issues. But the fact is people, your interactive agency is NOT your mobile agency. You can’t be a part-time professional anymore. Its like back in the 1990s when the www was forming. Your print company offered web services. Some companies stayed with them and got an inferior product. Others went with a dedicated interactive agency, and got a better product, more service, more technology and in almost all cases more results.

The old drug slogan, ‘just say no’ is applicable here. When your interactive agency or web design company offers you a mobile service, just say no. Then find a mobile agency (like Mobile Card Cast – shameless plug) who can listen to your objectives and put together a plan to achieve them and even surpass them. Let your print company do your flyers, your web company do your website, and your mobile company implement your mobile campaigns.

As for the Borgata…I still love you guys. Give me a call and let me help you do it right. A free seat in that 2,500 NLH tourney would get you back in my good graces, then we can go from there. But, next time you see the moron who put this together, walk up to him and bitch slap him in the face, and say (with an english accent) “Im mad as hell, and Im not going to take it anymore!!!!”.

Miller Mobile – You’re doing it wrong!

I couldn’t resist this one. SMS has been in play for years now, and yet still overpaid agencies can’t get it right. Please see exhibit A below:

Now, let’s take a look at this. This is obviously a coaster, likely being used in a bar or club to promote Miller’s “Win Epic Prizes” campaign. At a glance we can tell legal got their grubby hands on even the tagline…’epic’ has an asterisk which makes me question the epic-ness of the prizes. I digress.

It doesn’t take more than a middle school degree to realize that the goal of this campaign is to have customers text in – that would likely create a successful campaign. My prediction: the campaign to win epic prizes will be an epic fail.

First let’s look at the keyword, or what we at Mobile Card Cast call the Mobile ID. Not only is it a 10 character Mobile ID, but its mixed alpha-numeric. This will not only strongly deter folks from texting in, but exponentially increase both the possibility of input error and the frustration level of the user – most users will have to toggle between the alpha and numeric keyboard modes during input. Fail #1.

Second, let’s look at the shortcode. OH THAT’S RIGHT, I cant see it either. This is to be used in a bar people, and anyone who’s ever been to a bar can agree that for the most part they’re not the most well lit places on earth. And how about the call to action? The word ‘Text’ is equally illegible. So my question is, what brilliant Creative Director decided to use 8pt condensed font for the shortcode and CTA? Are they giving away free illuminated magnifying glasses to potential participants? Fail #2 and #3.

Rants aside here, you can see why this is categorized in the ‘You’re doing it wrong’ section’. The Mobile ID is cryptic; the shortcode and call to action are illegible in the environment within which they will be viewed. This is why having a strong mobile team on your side is important…it will prevent your ‘epic’ campaigns from becoming ‘epic’ fails.

But hey, at least it will keep the moisture off of the bar.

Do you need an App?

I was recently ranting about a question that was posed, the question being: Do small businesses need an App to be competitive? Now, as some of you know this is a subject I’ve talked about quite a bit. The short answer is an overwhelming NO. Small businesses need a mobile website, but don’t need an App to be competitive. Why? Well, let my rant ensue! 🙂

< rant >
Needing an app is one of the largest misconceptions in Mobile right now, especially for small businesses. What businesses need first is a Mobile website. For the most part, a consumer will turn to their mobile device for information when they’re on the road – shopping, looking for a restaurant, a product, etc. If that consumer does a quick web search, then clicks on a result that’s not formatted for their device, that business loses a new customer. No one is going to find a business, search for them in an app store, install their app, THEN try to find out their address or driving directions, or even their phone number.

There are existing Apps, however, that businesses should embrace. For example, Foursquare, SCVNGR, Yelp, and others will help consumers find a business, as each app has a large existing installed base. But to think that a small business needs an App is absurd. There’s usually no reason for the consumer to install the app, let alone use it. “Yea Joe hang on a second, I can get the address for Fred’s restaurant, let me search the app store for the Fred’s Restaurant app, then install it, then I’ll get the address.” Nope. Google Fred’s Restaurant, click a link, and if Fred did it right, Fred’s website will redirect the mobile user to Fred’s mobile website, and front and center will be a button that says “Find Us” or similar. Ah, and a big click-to-call phone number, just in case.

Local search is what the majority of consumers are using mobile devices for, and those devices can be a powerful acquisition vehicle for local businesses. When consumers are searching for information about a business, a menu, or products, having to install an app is an unnecessary barrier to entry. Having a good mobile website with your businesses information is the first step in getting people to your doorstep. Then, if you want to cater to the higher-end devices and provide some extra functionality, like the “Fred’s Restaurant Dart Game” or something, sure build your app. But build it to achieve a business need, not because a commercial or some developer tells you that you need one. You can spend way less and reach far more users with a mobile website. And as always, look to our big brother – the World Wide Web. Find me a software company that released an installable piece of software BEFORE launching their website in the last 10 years, and you’ll come up empty. It just makes no sense.
< /rant >

Designing for Mobile, part 1

So me being the overly ambitious person that I am, I decided to start a new series ‘Designing for Mobile’. Even though it says part 1, who knows if there will be any more installments. BUT Ill give it a shot.

So recently i was asked for an overview of how to design for mobile. Here is my response, i figured id share it with all of you. The original question was something like ‘how do you approach conversion of a web site to mobile?’ – my response below.

“For the most part we recreate the mobile site based on design and content from the web site. Designing and information architecture for mobile is completely different than web – the screen is smaller, and the needs are different. For example, on mobile contact info and address are always front and center. We can assume oftentimes a user will be accessing the mobile site while on the go, likely trying to find the business contact info or location. Or, a user is trying to find product information while in a store. The mobile experience needs to be designed according to the anticipated needs of the user. Secondarily we can provide tons of additional content that is a click or two deeper.

Also in mobile users tend to think side to side instead of up and down AND side to side as they do in web. In mobile left is back, right is forward – that’s a function of current mobile design and information flow, and is a key interface concept when designing and doing IA for mobile. Too many folks are trying desperately to retrofit their website for mobile and failing miserably because they don’t understand the interface assumptions and mindset of a mobile user.”