The story of launching our mobile site
Greetings from Romania.
Running a start up, while fending off vampires, can be a tough business. Being so busy with these blood suckers, we postponed our mobile website just until Father Google woke up one day and said:
“that information which is not mobile friendly, shall be cast into oblivion”
You know how sometimes grown ups seem to just make up all these crazy rules? Like:
“no ice cream if you don’t eat your broccoli”
Aww, the horror! Just thinking about the delicious bio and organic traffic we’d loose for desert, killed us a bit on the inside. Well that, not vampires, was too much of a scare to fend off; something had to happen.
First we called Transylvania and had some werewolves guard our door from vampires. You know, so we can concentrate. Then, immediately, we started to implement our small-device-mobile-enabled-touch-friendly version of the website.
It was not an easy task, after all we make the best flash sales online store in CEE — vivre.ro — that’s our thing. Yes we rule our hood, but we’ve got vampires what else did you expect.
Truth being told, our favorite aunt, Miss Data, told us once that we already had broccoli lurking at the bottom of our plates when we weren’t paying attention. They were disguised as an ever increasing mobile traffic in our analytics. She even gave us a nice picture:
At first we tried to tackle this with a mighty app. So far it’s been more app than mighty, you know like when you were trying to feed those broccoli to the dog. The dog ate them only if you also put a juicy stake on top. Here is a chart:
Yes, the app was not nearly as fast growing as our mobile enabled traffic. We were cornered and had no other option than suck it up and start digging the greens.
After much thought we decided that creating a mobile first, responsive experience would push the project way too much into the future. In Romania the future is always uncertain. We learned that what you can have today, might be gone by Sunday — so we decided to implement a separate mobile specific experience.
We used a feature of Yii, our framework of choice, named themes. This way, every view (page) from our desktop version could be overridden by simply making another file with the same name in the new theme. We employed twitter bootstrap for all the annoying grid/viewport management so we could concentrate on the fun parts, like rendering handlebars templates from our API. We had an API but no mobile site. It hurts me to even write this.
Like respectable vampire fending, werewolf guarded, young rebels we were opinionated and so we set to find if this whole mobile fuss was up to any good. Our big brother from his marketing tree house, lifting custom audiences with one hand while reading Ad Age, his odd passion, told us that when he was young like us, he also had to eat his broccoli or else, and now look how strong he got. He said it was obvious broccoli is good and laughed at our experiment.
That, puhlease, did not stop us. We started this experiment to see if conversion rates were still the same or better, considering our enhanced touch screen usability, retina ready assets and all. We went to papa Google and asked him to be the judge of this experiment, hoping in our young hearts to maybe, miraculously prove him wrong. In three days the results showed a 100% increase in conversion rates and, as it settled to more human-graspable percentages in the following days, the experiment gave the mobile/broccoli/grown-up-rule-thing 99% chances to win.
Reluctantly we started the vegetable, err mobile, feast with our favorite sporks. We had to solve really important problems too, like if should we use a hamburger, döner or a kebab menu, and the other things such as: one column or two column layout: which one provides a better experience, minimum tap zones for our controls and navigation, should users be able to log out on mobile? You know, the usual suspects.
Then the Q&A sessions flowed right in. We even tested on an Windows Phone, we’re that thorough. Yet we kept this to a minimum because as trained agile ninjas we carved out an MVP version of the new feature and spot on the day the new google algorithm started to take effect, our mobile optimized experience was up and kicking.
Some time passed.
Week over week we felt like Popeye when that spinach turned him into an instant body builder. Growth all over!
Scientific quantification of the overwhelming results revealed that:
- The increased conversions must have come from the fact that users could actually tap that buy button
- The higher number of transactions and unique purchases are owed to the UX being streamlined for the task at hand. On mobile devices users are even more task focused than on desktops since apparently tapping implies a lot more muscle groups than mousing around.
- The bigger quantity of purchases was because the time on site increased a lot and aunt Data explained this correlation to us a while ago: it seems like users buy more when they spend more time browsing your site, imagine that!
Currently we are iterating over our mobile site with joy and hyper high expectations. As this mobile and devices trend is one way and the app ecosystems seem to flat line really fast, with enormous cost for growth, the mobile web looks like the avenue to walk on with full confidence.
Jokes and funnies aside, if you’re still not device friendly and you run a web business, you are definitely missing out on the best opportunity available for development right now. With very little technical effort we offered our users an optimized experience and they rewarded us in return with booming metrics all over the board.
Oh, and apparently broccoli is awesome: