Be Where Your Customers Are

In reflecting on Luke Wroblewski’s presentation “Mobile to the Future,” Peter Merholtz’s response was “Don’t design for mobile“, design for your customer relationship.

Merholtz points out that “It’s never been about the technology. It’s about where your customers are.” Dead on.

I have pontificated on this issue many times to my limited audience at the studio where I work: it’s not about social, or mobile, or whatever new flavour of the day comes our way. It is absolutely about connecting with your customers where they are, serving them in whatever context they choose to connect with you.

Deliver an Effective Website, Regardless of Screen Size
If they’re on the internet, ensure your website helps them do business with you. Your web analytics will tell you whether they’re accessing your website using mobile devices. If they are, ensure that your website is usable on those screen sizes; ensure your website doesn’t chew up their data plan.

What about mobile apps?
Deciding on whether to deliver an app or take advantage of the mobile web comes down to the central issue of purpose.

It’s important to understand what your customers need to do, what you want them to do, where and when it’s convenient and makes sense for these things to be done.

The simplest way to answer the question of “Should we build an app?” is to ask another question:

Why would someone want to install the app?

This second question gets to the fundamental issue whether the proposed app serves a real unmet need. If the need is missing, it’s difficult to put together a coherent business case to support the investment of resources. Successful apps are not built and then forgotten: like web sites, they require regular maintenance and improvements.

Design for Your Users and Their Contexts
To put it yet another way, the question that must be answered is:

Do you want to support your customers within the contexts that they are accessing your content?

If the answer is yes, then your mission is to stay aware of where your customers are. Yesterday, they were bound to their desktop; today, they are on different types of devices, often mobile; tomorrow, who knows? By framing your mission in terms of where your customers are, you broaden your perspective and prevent yourself from addressing issues too late in the game.

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