Fortune 100 Mobile "Report Card" Provides Insights into Mobile Best Practices

Oct 18, 2013

Article ImageAs the migration of consumers from desktop to mobile devices continues with little indication of abating, it remains as much of a concern as ever for companies to represent their products, services, and brands in a mobile environment. The Search Agency, a global online marketing firm founded in 2002 and based in Los Angeles, delivered a progress report on the country's biggest companies' mobile presence-in the interest of providing a rubric of best practices and mistakes to companies of all sizes-with its "Mobile Experience Scorecard: Fortune 100 Companies" report.

The Search Agency cites Pew research which found that 56% of American adults now own a smartphone. Grant Simmons, The Search Agency's director of SEO and social product, points to this figure as one of the prime reasons that any company must maintain a mobile presence, and that that presence should be both usable and findable.

The agency's report evaluated the Fortune 100 companies' mobile sites based on a set of five criteria: load speed, site format, calculated download speed, social media presence, and app presence. These criteria took into account, in part, standards set by Google in a recent update to its guidelines for best practices to mobile sites-namely, the usage of Responsive Web Design and a load-speed for mobile pages of one second.

"What Google is trying to do," Simmons says, "is improve the user experience by setting these standards. They're not mandates, but by giving a higher search ranking to sites that meet its best practice standards, it will drive companies towards these thresholds, because a high Google search ranking is important to a company. They want to be found."

One significant over-arching finding of the evaluation was that, while Google has sought to establish Responsive Web Design (RWD) as a standard-over dedicated mobile sites-only a handful of the Fortune 100s are using that method of web design.

According to author and mobile strategist Rachel Pasqua, RWD standard is still a fledgling technology, and that while it may be to Google's benefit to encourage the mobile web to move in that direction-for ease of searching, since RWD sites pose only a single set of URLs for Google to crawl, as opposed to a separate mobile set-there's the inherent challenges, and the accompanying resistance, that go along with overhauling a company's web design.

"A lot of companies would have to start from scratch," says Pasqua, "and a lot of these big companies tend to drag their feet when it comes to making a change like that, especially when the quality of their mobile site may not be on the top of the mind of all of the folks who are sitting in the board room."

The companies that made it to the top of the heap in The Search Agency's analysis were Coca-Cola and FedEx. Both companies' sites met the one-second load speed, had a download speed of over 200 kb/s, and had a strong social media presence with at least three easily visible social media buttons displayed on the mobile site. Both sites utilized a dedicated mobile site, however, rather than RWD. Nevertheless, The Search Agency's Grant Simmons points to both companies as prime examples of successful mobile web design.

"Coca-Cola presents a unique mobile experience that reinforces its brand," Simmons says. "They're a lifestyle brand, and they do a great job of providing visibility around its products, and pointing the user toward what he's most likely to be looking for."

"FedEx, and its mobile site, have a different set of priorities," Simmons continues. "FedEx provides a service-shipping packages in the most expedient way possible-and its mobile site delivers content that matches the intent of its customers."

Tied with the lowest score were Hess, the energy company, and Sysco, the marketing and distribution company, both of which displayed the desktop version of their website on mobile devices, and did not present social media buttons or evidence of a mobile app on their sites.

When asked whether the robustness and usability of a company's mobile site might have a direct correlation to the number and type of mobile users the company would expect to serve, and whether Sysco, the food distribution company, might not need to be as concerned with delivering a mobile experience as Coca-Cola, a mass-market soft-drink company, she replies, "The most common users of the mobile sites of those energy and distribution companies are likely to be high-end investors and executives, and it should be just as important to those companies to deliver a good mobile experience to those users as it is for Coca-Cola to deliver one to soda drinkers."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)