Talking Mobile CRO With Chris Goward

by Adam Kreitman

Last updated on September 28th, 2017

Chris Goward is a pioneer in the world of landing page and conversion rate optimization. He founded WiderFunnel, a full-service optimization company that’s worked with Google, Electronic Arts, SAP, Magento and more.

He’s presented at over 100+ events around the world since 2007 including PubCon, Search Marketing Expo and eMetrics. And he’s the author of “You Should Test That! Conversion Optimization for More Leads, Sales and Profit or The Art and Science of Optimized Marketing,” an Amazon best-selling book.

Chris Goward

There’s no shortage of topics to pick Chris’ brain on when it comes to CRO and it was tough narrowing things down. In the end, we decided to talk about mobile CRO, an increasingly important part of a business’ web strategy.

In this interview, Chris shares his expertise in mobile CRO including how it’s different from traditional CRO, tools to use for mobile CRO and more.

Before we talk about how Mobile CRO is different, let’s talk about what it has in common with traditional CRO. How is your approach to CRO for mobile sites similar to your approach to CRO for the desktop versions of websites?

That’s the great news! The process for optimizing and testing mobile is essentially the same as for any other media. For most of our clients, mobile has grown substantially as a percentage of web traffic and we’re spending more effort each month optimizing mobile sites, Responsive sites, and mobile apps.

We approach the process in two phases:

  1. strategy
  2. ongoing optimization

The strategy phase is where we dig into really understanding the voice of the customer, the value proposition, and current marketing touch-points. The outcome is a prioritization of effort, and naturally includes mobile along with all other media. The second phase is ongoing optimization, focused around A/B/n testing and qualitative research.

And the process must be integrated.

Marketers often forget an important thing when thinking about mobile: there are no mobile visitors. Your mobile visitors are your desktop visitors. When people talk about how mobile visitors act vs. desktop, they mislead themselves. Often they’re the same people using different devices at the same time.

So, the only way to do mobile optimization properly is to integrate it with the entire marketing optimization strategy rather than creating a separate process.

Okay, so the process you use for optimizing and testing mobile is essentially the same. Can I assume, however, that most of the mobile sites you work on look different than the desktop version of the site? And, if that’s the case, at what point in the CRO process do you take a different approach to a mobile site and how does the approach differ?

Yes, the mobile sites have major differences than their desktop versions, of course. Sometimes they’re simply re-arrangements of the same content, like in a typical Responsive Web Design approach. But, in other cases they may be dramatically different, even emphasizing different calls-to-action, like phone call CTA’s or location-based content.

There are many new mobile-specific user experience approaches we’re discovering. Mobile differs in many ways, primarily the context. By definition, mobile implies the user is “out and about,” which means they have greater distraction, less attention available, and different location-based needs.

On the other hand, we’re also often learning from mobile tests that we can feed back into the desktop testing, and vice versa. The discipline of prioritizing messages for smaller screens can give just as much benefit for marketing to larger screens too.

All of this is why an optimization testing strategy is so important. When you aim for insights from tests, and have a testing roadmap, you can leverage the interesting intersections between all of your marketing segments—beyond just mobile vs. desktop too. Otherwise, using the “random” testing approach that I call the “spaghetti at the wall” method, you can totally miss key insights.

Can you share some general guidelines for and/or examples of situations where the mobile version of a site would be a simple re-arrangement of the same content vs. when it would be dramatically different? 

Deciding on mobile tactics all comes down to context. There aren’t blanket rules, but principles that apply. In a mobile context—with greater environmental distractions, internal urgency, localization needs, transactional barriers and UX constraints—what is the most appropriate message prioritization and call to action?

The tactic depends on the business, but those are the factors you need to consider.

For example, in a mobile context, finding a location may be more important to more of your visitors than your typical CTAs. Or not, but that’s a hypothesis you can test.

You also may need to test which content appears first in your mobile experience. The screen ‘fold’ is even more important in mobile than on desktop. Scrolling is much more burdensome than with a desktop scroll wheel.

And, you should think more carefully about how to be concise in your messages. Every word counts.

Also, how do the unique OS’s interact with your design. A lot of mobile websites with banner ads on the bottom of their screen, for example, don’t work well with the latest iPhone OS with its slide-up toolbar.

Context is everything. You should A/B test within each of these hypotheses to find how your visitors respond best in the different contexts.

You’ve referred to the importance of context a number of times when it comes to optimizing for mobile. Does the context of a business’ prospects who are using mobile devices change for different businesses/industries? If so, how do you get a good understanding of the context of mobile users for one industry vs. another?

It’s not necessarily tied to the industry, but to the product, offer, decision cycle, source media, demographic, and geographical context. Exploring scenarios that your prospect will be in on your page will help you find the right messages and calls to action to test.

Ask yourself how each of these could affect their mindset:

  • What did the prospect just click on to arrive at this page?
  • What do their inbound links, ads and context and how does that affect their expectation on the page?
  • What products, services or information could they be looking for?
  • What are the ages, positions and decision-making criteria are visitors to the page?
  • What are your prospects’ decision stages and what information do they need in each?
  • What calls to action are most valuable to the business?

You see, context is important in desktop too, but in mobile there’s simply additional location-based context.

With all the different devices, browsers, technologies, etc., at play, mobile CRO poses some unique challenges. What advice do you have for those looking to optimize their mobile sites when it comes to staying on top of the testing process with all the potential variables involved? Do you have any tools you’d recommend when it comes to testing mobile sites?

Most of the standard A/B testing tools for websites work just as well for mobile sites. However, some are better than others at minimizing browser load, which is even more important for mobile. There are also now tools specifically designed for testing apps that aren’t web-browser based, which opens up even more opportunities. Artisan is a new app A/B testing tool, for example, and Optimizely now supports mobile app testing.

The biggest technical challenge for mobile testing is QA testing of the test variations on all the different browser, OS, device combinations. Thankfully, though, it’s often less complicated than desktop sites without all the Internet Explorer headaches!

For more from Chris, check out his book You Should Test That! and visit WiderFunnel’s site or see what he’s up to on Twitter.

Read more Crazy Egg articles by Adam Kreitman.



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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on


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  1. Rick Kaplan says:
    October 1, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for your instructive insights about what’s unique about mobile CRO when compared to websites. I also appreciate how you highlight the headache of testing for mobile, given the absurd proliferation of mobile devices (over 20,000 different Android devices!). One pain reliever has got to be online mobile testing labs. These labs let digital marketers inspect their website’s performance on actual phones and tablets – right from the comfort of their desktop browser. Some of the labs, like my favorite — Mobilizer –come packaged with unique per-device analytics, which offer further opportunities for mobile CRO. When your website has different bounce rates and conversions on an iPhone 6 as compared to a Samsung Galaxy S5, that offers great opportunities for hypothesizing and testing key variables to further drive an improved CRO.

  2. Ariane says:
    August 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    “Marketers often forget an important thing when thinking about mobile: there are no mobile visitors. ”

    This is a great point that you bring up. When people say this it sounds as if they are misleading themselves to think that people who have browsed their site on mobile do not view their site from a desktop. They are all the same people! I think the way that mobile users browse the web differs from the way they browse desktop sites, but overall they are the same people.

    • Neil Patel says:
      August 28, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Glad you caught that. Thanks for the valuable feedback 🙂

    • Chris Goward says:
      August 31, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Exactly, Ariane!

      Your mobile and desktop visitors are often the same people. Though, there will be UX differences and varying “best” variations, it’s useful to remember that they’re not different segments of people in the true sense.

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