The Ostrich/Meerkat Test

You build a mobile web campaign to achieve a specific set of goals. Hopefully you are acutely aware of what these goals are, but how closely are you tracking your campaign so that you know how successful you are being, and more importantly, so you can optimise your campaign to become more successful?

Monitor where your users are coming from and which call to action is driving the user in. Short URLs (e.g. bitly) and QR codes can embed tracking codes within them, so you can identify how users are being driven to your site. Make sure you are tracking these correctly, so that they are clearly highlighted in your analytics tool, such as Google Analytics (GA). GA is a no-brainer for your general analytics of your site, and even if you use other reporting tools, it costs nothing to add GA to your arsenal.

Monitor how many of your users are converting to your goal and understand whether your energy should be in getting more people to your door, getting more relevant people to your door, or fixing issues with your user journey to help them complete your goal.

Clear signposts
If sharing and viral is an important aspect of your campaign, make sure you have clear signposts to share. Make your site truly multichannel, such that a single URL delivers optimal content, whatever device the user is accessing it on. You don’t want someone sharing a m. URL with a friend, only to have a friend follow the share on a PC and get the mobile experience (or vice versa). If you must split your site between an m. and www. URL, make sure you have appropriate deep link redirecting between PC and mobile sites in place.

Monitor which devices are coming into your site and hitting your goals. Yes – you’ll see lots of iPhones, you’ll see android coming in strong and a rising number of tablets. But, don’t fall into the trap of optimising for one channel and then validating your decision when the devices you have not optimised for don’t come or don’t convert – a classic self-fulfilling prophecy.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of ignoring the 30 per cent tail. Let’s say your site is generating a modest £10K value a month. By ignoring the 30 per cent tail you could be losing £3K a month, easily enough to cover a day’s dev effort or investing in tools to give some love to the neglected minority.

Also, monitor how fast your site is. Companies like Gomez can help track the performance of your site. It is clear that page load time has a serious effect on your campaign performance, and this is especially true on mobile, where devices are less powerful and bandwidth is less reliable. You want to be getting the page delivery times down below a few seconds.

As with any performance optimisation the trick is in identifying the next big thing that is slowing you down and then iteratively knocking these big boys out. Split your attack into client side and server side.

For client side – Use Firebug & Page Speed in Firefox to identify big resources, unnecessary resources, slow resources, uncompressed resources, and resources that can be cached but aren’t. Even when delivering to mobile, desktop browsers – with all their advance features and plugins – provide an essential development tool.

For server side, measure your page delivery times on the server – isolate it from network delivery so you can focus on each component independently. Your page delivery times should be in the fractions of seconds. If they’re not, then you know you need to focus on getting this down. Profile your page delivery to identify the bottleneck – is it DB access? Is it web service access? Is it system CPU? Attack these bottlenecks until the time taken to deliver the page from the server is a small fraction of the total time the user has to wait for the page to load.

System failure
When you have your delivery performance looking good, then make sure you continuously monitor your system. If page delivery suddenly slows down, then you may have system failure that needs immediate attention – set up email alerts to keep you informed. If the page delivery time starts slowing down then you may have a problem looming. Schedule some time as soon as possible to review what might have changed so you can steer this off early and make sure it doesn’t become a problem.

Monitor your health – like it or not your web site will have issues. Third party APIs may fail. Users may interact with your site in ways you had not expected. And your site may simply have a few bugs. It’s not a sin to admit that, but it is a sin to not continuously monitor alerts that indicate such failings. It’s like driving on a flat tyre – your site will be under-performing if you aren’t ready to take remedial action and apply iterative updates.

So are you an Ostrich or a Meerkat? Is your head in the sand, thankful that you’ve pushed your campaign live and ignorant to opportunities for optimisation. Or is your head up, continuously monitoring for dangers and ready to react and take action? Meerkats are cuter too.


Ian Homer is CTO at bemoko

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