Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones and other on-the-go devices for the majority of their computing needs, which has led to a proliferation of mobile apps. While the benefits of using mobile devices are plentiful – such as easy access to contact information, emails and appointments – mobile apps are also pushing privacy concerns to the fore. It’s crucial for users to be aware of how their personal information is collected by those apps, as well as how secure – or not – the mobile sites are. Many desktop sites responsibly display and disclose privacy information, but translating it to the mobile world seems to be a challenge.
The difficulties accessing privacy information on mobile apps became apparent in a recent report by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It revealed that, out of the 1,200 mobile apps analysed, 43% failed to tailor privacy communications to the small screen; the information was either too small or hidden in lengthy privacy policies that required scrolling or clicking through numerous pages.
The report proves how critical it is for sites to be optimised for mobile devices; it’s not just about aesthetics, personal privacy is at stake too. Failing to realise this could not only drive away customers, but could be detrimental to a company’s credibility, not to mention the backlash from users if a site is then breached.
Optimising mobile sites
One of the most important things to remember is that desktop sites cannot simply be shrunk without implications. The fact is that if a site was developed for a large screen, it will have a number of features, functionality and complex information. Once scaled down to a smaller screen it will become almost impossible to effectively load that level of detail without putting the site at risk of slowing or even crashing. This is not to mention that visitors will often have to go through excessive resizing and scrolling to read all the information or find the privacy notice. All of which results in a poor user experience and may even deter visitors; possibly compromising repeat customers. Instead, developers will need to examine how their desktop sites translate for the mobile web and consider what information is important for users on the move – privacy information is an absolute must.
In an ideal world, sites would be designed for mobiles and tablets, and then scaled up for the desktop. At the very minimum, however, they need to take these other form factors into account. Third party plug-ins, such as a rolling window into a company’s Twitter feed, for example, would be less appropriate on a mobile homepage, compared with a desktop. Eliminating elements such as this will not only make a site more readable but less prone to performance issues. It will also make it far quicker and easier to see privacy information.
Consistently performing mobile sites
As sites change, so can the readability of important information such as security notifications. To prevent this, site owners must regularly monitor and test site performance, ideally in real-time and on real devices. This will enable them to understand what their site visitors are truly experiencing, regardless of their network, handset, device or location. If the text is too small, the information is too hard to access, or it cannot be accessed at all, developers will be able to identify these issues and resolve them as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Ultimately, where privacy is concerned, it’s crucial to get it right first time, because when it comes to dealing with customers’ personal information, there’s no room for error. Consumers need to feel in control of their own information and companies can create trust by offering as much information as possible regarding how visitors’ personal information will be used. Fundamental to this is that the user can read that information on whatever device they may be using. Realising that desktop and mobile are two completely different channels is the most important step, following this, regular testing and monitoring will ensure a good user experience is maintained and privacy information is always front and centre.
Jose Talavera is Solution Consultant for the UK and Nordics at Keynote
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