Mobile and PayPal
We’re used to people accessing the Internet via personal computers, but more and more consumers
are accessing the Web via smartphones and other mobile devices. This trend toward mobile access will
affect the way you sell online—including the way you accept customer payments.Suppose a potential customer sees a friend with your product and loves it, but is not near a computer? You don’t want that moment to pass; in all sales, timing is critical. And when she gets to your site, can she find the product? Can she buy it easily? PayPal Mobile gives you access to those impulse buys, with a checkout process designed for mobile devices.
Why Mobile Matters
Why is mobile e-commerce important? It’s a simple matter of numbers: mobile Web use is fast gaining on traditional computer-based Web use. You need to reach your customers no matter what type of device they use to access the Internet.Look at the statistics. The Intern
ational Telecommunication Union reports that there are more than 5 billion cellular telephone subscribers world-wide; CTIA—The Wireless Association reports that more than 300 million of these subscribers are in the U.S. CTIA also reports that 96 percent of all Americans had a mobile phone subscription at the end of 2010. IDC reports that there were close to 1.4 billion new mobile phones sold in 2010, making this the fastest-selling item in the entire consumer electronics industry.These raw numbers dwarf those of the personal computer industry, but it gets even more interesting when you drill down to look at mobile Internet usage. In a 2009 report, the Pew Research Center found that 35 percent of all mobile phone users have used their phones to access the Internet; that’s more than a billion people worldwide, and more than a hundred thousand in the U.S alone. This mobile access will only increase; Gartner estimates that mobile Web usage will surpass PC-based access by 2013.And these mobile users are spending money. ABI Research reports that in 2009, $1.2 billion in purchases were made from mobile devices in the U.S.; ABI expects this number to increase to $119 billion by 2015. That’s big
money, and reason enough for savvy businesses to embrace the mobile Web. No business can dismiss hundreds of millions of potential custom-ers; indeed, you want to reach Internet users no matter how they connect to the Web. A mobile phone is just another gateway to the products you sell online.The importance of the mobile Internet is more than just numbers, of course. Customers don’t need to be sitting in front of a computer, but instead can connect to the Web via mobile phone anytime and anywhere. People always have their phones with them; this gives you nonstop con-nectivity to your customers.The mobile Web also romises increased access to location-based infor-mation about your customers. Being able to target buyers based on their location lets you provide them with information about shoes if they’re in a shoe store, for example, or promotions for frozen food if they’re in a gro-cery store. It’s narrowcasting, as opposed to mass marketing, which should generate more effective results.All this adds up to a channel that you can’t ignore—and a real need for upgrading your e-commerce activities to embrace mobile users
note: PayPal’s efforts in mobile extend beyond merchant services to services aimed squarely at mobile consumers. The very popular PayPal Mobile, for example, which lets consumers shop securely on eBay, speed through checkout on other mobile sites, send money to other users, and manage their PayPal accounts, all on their mobile phones. PayPal has apps for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry platforms, as
well as a dedicated mobile version of our website (located at http://m.paypal.com).
Creating a Mobile-Friendly Website
The first step toward embracing mobile commerce is to design a version of your website specifically for mobile devices. The mobile screen is notice-ably smaller (and of different dimensions) than a computer screen; what fits comfortably on a big monitor is overkill on a mobile phone.It’s not just about looks, either. Web functionality needs to be streamlined for mobile users. That’s because it’s more difficult to navigate a website on a phone than it is on a computer; you don’t have a mouse to move around with. For that reason, a mobile website has to be navigable with many fewer clicks than a traditional site.If you want to play on the mobile Web, then your web-site has to work with phones and other mobile devices. What do you need to do to create a great-looking and fully functional mobile website? Here are some things to keep in mind.
note: When evaluating mobilewebsite functionality, know that some mobile Web browsers do not display some technologies well or at all. As a prominent example, Apple’s Safari browser, used on the popular iPhone, is not compatible with Flash media. Ifyou have any Flash elements on your page, they simply won’t display on an iPhone.
reduce the number of elements
Designing a mobile e-commerce website is all about making things simple. The first thing to simplify is the number of elements on a page. The typical mobile phone screen isn’t very large; only a few items can fit
on the screen and still be legible.To this end, you need to reduce the number of elements that appear on the
screen at one time. Instead of displaying a dozen different elements, opt for a half dozen or less. Choosing those elements is most important.
tip: When you’re reducing the number of elements on your mobile site, make
sure you prioritize the ones that remain. Browsing through pages on a mobile site can
be quite time consuming; users should see the most important content at the top of
the first page.
As an example, compare PayPal’s regular website) with its website for mobile users . The regular site has lots and lots of options available, in a landscape (horizontal) orientation. The mobile site, on the other hand, presents only the most important options, in a portrait (vertical) orientation, with minimal graphics. It’s a lot cleaner and to the point, and works much better on mobile devices.
Add a search Box
When you limit the content you present on your mobile page, you reduce the number of navigational avenues into your site. Since there are fewer navigational options, it’s important to provide a way for users to find spe-cific content. That argues for a site search box, placed prominently on the homepage. You have to give customers a way to find what they’re looking for, no matter what.
design for Portrait Orientation
Pages on the traditional Web have a landscape orientation with horizontal menu bars, as users typically have widescreen computer monitors. Phone screens, however, are usually oriented vertically. This means you need to adjust your Web pages to be sure they display well in a vertical format.
limit the use of Images
Here’s something else about really good mobile websites: they don’t use a lot of graphics. Space is at a premium, and you can’t waste it with super-fluous images. In most instances, you can present content more efficiently in text than in pictures; let that drive your mobile page design.Using text instead of images also affects the download time for your mobile pages. Mobile Web access is typically slower than a computer-based connection; everything takes longer on the mobile Web. Keep this in mind and limit the number of large elements that take a long time to download—don’t make visitors suffer through an interminable download just to look at a pretty picture.
reduce the File size
With cellular data network speeds in mind (and knowing that even 3G networks aren’t always speedy), you need to keep the file size for the entire web page as small as possible. You want to aim for a maximum
page file size of 20KB. Smaller is better.
don’t clutter the screen
When designing for the mobile screen, it’s tempting to try to cram as many elements as possible into the smaller space. Resist that tempta-tion. White space is an important element of any page design, and even more so for small screens. Having too many elements in a small space is visually unappealing and difficult to navigate. The admonition to keep it simple applies to design as well as content.
Don’t do Tables
If you use tables on your main website, get rid of them for your mobile site. Tables simply don’t display well on mobile devices; if a table is too wide (which it probably is), it throws off the entire page. Instead, pres-ent data in a bulleted list, or just in normal text format. Only use tables if you’re sure they fit within the allotted screen width.
use a high-contrast design
Getting into the design side of things, know that not all mobile devices have great screens. Some devices simply don’t reproduce color well; some devices don’t even have color screens. To that end, pay attention to the contrast on your page, and make sure the text color is in sharp contrast to the background color. When in doubt, remember that black text on a white background works best.
Minimize Text entry
E-commerce websites require a fair amount of data entry on the part of your customers. That said, you need to rethink how you get that customer input. It’s difficult to enter text on a mobile phone; you have to click here and press there and then tap an onscreen keyboard multiple times just to record a single letter. Consider accepting some input, such as demographic information, via simple radio buttons or lists that visitors can select from; also minimize the need to input non-alphanumeric characters and to capitalize input text. In other words, design your mobile site to require as few input keystrokes as possible.
design for Multiple Phones
When designing a mobile website, it’s tempting to focus your mobile efforts on Apple’s iPhone, as it urrently dominates the consumer smart-phone market. But the iPhone isn’t the only Web-enabled phone on the market; in fact, it only owns about a quarter of the smartphone market, let alone the market for all Web-enabled phones. If you focus on the iPhone exclusively, you’ll be ignoring more than three-quarters of the
potential mobile market.This leads to the challenge of making sure your site can be displayed at avariety of screen sizes, shapes, and resolutions. Some mobile screens are tall and skinny, some are short and long, some are perfectly square. And resolution varies from 128×160 all the way to the iPhone 4’s 60×640 pix-els. It’s tough to make a single site look good on all these different displays.The best solution, then, is to keep your mobile site as clean and simple as possible, to maximize the viewing experience across multiple mobile platforms. Alternatively, you can design one site for web-kit mobile browsers (iOS, Android, etc.) and another for other feature phones. In any case, you have to take multiple phone models into account.