About a month ago, Holly Rein, our Digital Ministry Consultant at Five Q, brought to my attention Think Again: Assumptions About Mobile To Reconsider by Karolina Szczur on Smashing Mag. Holly asked what I thought of it, and if I had any response.
First of all, kudos to Karolina for her work. She assesses common assumptions very well, and confirms much of what I have read over the last year about mobile strategy and design. The question is: how does this apply to ministries and non-profits? Below are some specific mistakes that we often hear at Five Q from ministries and nonprofits.
Mistake #1. “I don’t need a mobile strategy. Users aren’t coming to my website on mobile devices.”
If users are not coming to your website on mobile devices, this does not mean that your users do not use mobile technology. It is much more likely that the user experience on your current website is frustrating and that users are choosing not to come to your website on their mobile devices.
If you are making a strategic decision based on data, make sure it is based on the RIGHT data – overall web usage for your target audience – as opposed to statistics for your current website. Again, it is important that when your analytics show an absence of mobile users, this does not mean you should ignore mobile. An absence of mobile users likely means there are problems using your website on mobile devices.
Mistake #2. Not starting with Content Strategy.
In the ministry/non-profit marketplace, content strategy as a whole needs to be re-imagined. Instead of thinking that the mobile and desktop web are two different things, consider that there is only one web; we only view it in different locations and ways. This means that your content needs to be consumable everywhere, on any device. Starting with a good content strategy is your first step toward a good web experience for everyone. Once you do this, you’re only going to be more successful when the website around your content is geared to present it well on any device.
One thing to note is that a mobile-first content strategy doesn’t necessarily mean less content- it often means better content. One of the misconceptions about the design field is that restrictions are a barrier to creativity. In fact, restrictions help a designer define the problem they need to solve, and give them boundaries to solve it. Restrictions also benefit your content strategy because it means you need to edit down to what’s most important. Again, while mobile doesn’t necessarily mean less content, it often looks like it if your site is bloated.
Mistake #3. “We need a mobile app.”
Let’s face it, everyone wants to make their own app. The App Store on iOS has almost 1 million active apps for a reason. Creating a successful app takes a lot of work. Apps that are successful are either meant for a specific audience, to help users perform a task that makes their life easier, or entertain them. Content-focused apps rarely succeed, and when they do, it is rarely an app that pulls content from a single source.
Apps are also proprietary in many cases, so by default an app can limit a ministry’s mobile experience to a specific mobile OS, and creating an app for every device increases cost significantly. Each OS has a different development platform, requiring a unique skill set for each app. The web, on the other hand, is non-proprietary and also allows users to share content easily to all social networks. Most of our clients are looking to build community, and in order to do this you need to be able to reach your whole audience with your content. Therefore, building a mobile optimized website (as opposed to an app) is going to be more cost effective in the long run and provide you with the greatest reach.
If you want to provide a product to your audience that will help them solve a specific problem, make their life easier in some way, or provide a way for them to have fun (a la video games), then, and only then, do we encourage ministries to consider building a mobile app. Below I have linked to an article on how to create a successful app. While the article primarily focuses on paid apps, a lot of the advice applies and I would recommend you read the article before considering going this route.
No matter who you are, mobile shouldn’t be ignored. Whether your budget is big or small, there is something that can be done to make your site more friendly to mobile users. Take a step of faith, and get started. You won’t regret it, and neither will your users.
If you want to read more about mobile, there are a lot of great resources I can recommend for you:
- Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski – This book is great, and while it is a couple years old it shows just how important placing priority on Mobile is.
- Think Again: Assumptions About Mobile To Reconsider – This is the article that inspired this post, and I would be remiss not to include it.
- LukeW.com – Luke Wroblewski’s site has a lot of mobile and tablet statistics; keep an eye out for his Data Monday posts.
- Content Strategy for Mobile – This one is next on my list from A Book Apart. I have read several of their books, and everyone is fantastic.
- How To Succeed With Your Mobile App by Jeremy Olson – A great little article on what makes an app successful.
Registration for the June CLA Online Academy closes on June 10. Classes begin on June 17. If you want to go deeper into Digital Ministry, we recommend you enroll for this session: