The New York Times is undertaking an experiment today where they will require all their employees to use only the mobile version of the site, and not the desktop version. With more than half of their traffic coming from mobile devices, they want their employees to be aware of just how important the mobile version of New York Times is, and hopefully, improve the user experience.
“More than half of our traffic to The Times is on mobile. We’re hopeful that this temporary change will help spur us to make mobile an even more central part of everything that we do,” read the email, which was attributed to a handful of top newsroom and company executives, including Publisher and Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Executive Editor Dean Baquet.
Their experiment seems restricted to the homepage only, but I would love to see them expand to the entire site, at least for some of their employees, to see some great suggestions for improvements.
This is something that all marketers should apply to their own sites. While we can be the armchair critics when it comes to other sites, people seldom spend much time at all on their own sites, usually because when they work, they are sitting at a desktop.
Spend a Week Mobile Only
Make it your own company’s mandate to shut off desktop access for a week (with obvious exceptions depending on employee role) to see how well the site works in mobile.
A week is a pretty good time frame. Any shorter and you will have people thinking “ugh, I will just wait to do that tomorrow when we have the desktop site back again.” And the point is that you want your team members doing all those things that make them go “ugh, not that on a mobile” so you can improve the experience for your real visitors.
Set a Task
Each day, strive to do a different task on your mobile site that your regular visitors or customers would do, but that an employee wouldn’t usually do. This should include:
- Sign up for a newsletter
- Share content
- Find and follow the social media links
- Register an account
- Place an order
- Visit the support section and navigate to support for a specific product
- Read current articles
- Read older articles
- Follow links from Google to the site
Keep a log
Ask your employees to keep a running log of everything from major problems to small annoyances. While sometimes people feel petty reporting the small annoyances, if 60% of your employees all have the same annoyance, then it is a minor thing that should be fixed.
Likewise, you could discover a major problem that might only be an issue with one device or one type of mobile browser. So ask your employees to note the OS and browser.
Have a Backup Plan
Of course, you want your employees to be able to access your site in case of emergency, whether it be a technical issue or a major breaking news story. With The New York Times, employees can get access to the desktop homepage but only by entering in their email address first.
The fact that a company as large as The New York Times – especially one that relies on their website – is giving this much attention to their mobile site and strategy speaks volumes. While you may not have as many employees or a website the size of theirs, you can definitely learn from what they are doing it and apply it to your own site and team, so you can recognize any potential issues that your visitors might have with your mobile site.
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