Greenhouse Management: Can you first explain what “mobile friendliness” is and why is it so important for a commercial website to be mobile friendly?
Katie Rotella: At its core, a mobile-friendly website acknowledges that your customers don’t spend their day behind their desk and they’re active. It’s a simple way for you to tell them, “Hey, I get it. I know that you’re on the go, and I’m going to help you with giving you the information that you need.”
And it’s a hurdle for a lot of people when they go to a website and it’s not mobile friendly: they’ll just exit it. It’s very frustrating because you’re taking multiple screen sizes [into account], so anything down to your iPhone 5 or 6, which has a smaller screen versus an iPad or an Android phone, which is a little bit larger. So you want to make sure that your sites and your experiences are the same on all of those.
GM: What are some tips for growers who want to make their website mobile friendly?
KR: It’s always a good time to go back and reevaluate how your customers see you online. [Make] it really easy for them to interact with you. Don’t hide your phone number [and] make it really easy to read. Don’t use scripted fonts and weird colors; keep it nice and clear and crisp, and easy to navigate.
Give them a prominent search [bar] because that’s how people find things [once they get to our site]. We know our number one entry point is Google, besides typing in BallSeed.com directly. People are going there first and typing into their browser, “Find me this particular plant,” and we’re hoping our site pops up first.
So eliminating those rollover actions, those pop-ups that are typical on a desktop site – eliminating those so that your site becomes more thumb friendly and touch friendly is important.
GM: What were some of the major elements that had to change with BallSeed.com’s old design?
KR: Our old site was not mobile friendly. You had a lot of pinching and zooming going on. We had some gray type – I mean, it was dark charcoal gray on white background. You put it on your phone and you couldn’t read it.
Beyond the aesthetics of just realigning it with our current Ball Seed [branding], we made sure that our design coding behind it was using responsive design technology. That meant we can serve up one code that would adjust itself based on the user’s screen size. Things stack on top of each other in a much more pleasing aspect and type blows up on your screen rather than [having to pinch and zoom].
We also simplified the navigation in general with that “hamburger” menu item at the very top – it’s three little bars – that is on every single page. Whether you’re on your phone or on your desktop (We call it a sticky menu at the top – so as you scroll up, it stays there). That is your entry point to every page on our website, so there’s no more deep-diving into a page with dropdowns or things like that. You can always access everything from that main menu.
Then we took a look at our analytics from our old site and [questioned] What were people really excited about? and Why did they want to come there? They came there to buy, so we wanted to make sure WebTrack was very prominent as well. So our search, our WebTrack and our hamburger menu are always at the top.
Then we found that [users] were very interested in culture and our catalogues as well as making bench cards, so then we made sure those areas were updated so that you can choose [varieties from] A to Z lists.
Other things that we did: We added a recommended products page. So this allows us to give a little bit more voice to our page as well, so it’s not just throwing information at you. This is actually us taking a look at current trends or current availability or award winners, top sellers and saying, “Hey, I think you should take note of these particular products.” It’s just that personal touch of, “These were recommended by our experts and ones you should take note of.”
We change it about every month or so. As the season heats up or we get more award winners, that gets updated more regularly. So it’s something fresh for them to return to.
GM: Other than a more pleasant user experience, what are the long-term advantages of being mobile friendly?
KR: It’s important because you want to be found on search engines. Google is actually de-ranking people. They’ll put you on a lower search result if you’re not mobile friendly nowadays. Because Google doesn’t want to send people to poorly-designed sites. So that’s number one. You want people to find you.
And Google actually does offer several web developer tools with a checklist of ways to increase your search engine optimization. They give you certain codes that you can add to your site and certain design elements that are good, and things you should avoid. All of that gives you the analytics so you can gauge your engagement with your user. But then it allows you to adjust so you can better serve your customers, too.
When you serve up a site full of pinches and zooms, it’s a hurdle. And to watch people interact with your site and get frustrated, nobody wants that. Especially if your site is transactional [and] you can actually make a purchase or make an order from your site.
GM: Could you give us an example of a grower with an impressive website?
KR: [We] are consistently impressed with Calloway’s Nursery and their online presence at www.calloways.com. Their website features responsive web design, so it conforms to multiple screen sizes. It is also carefully organized with key menu destinations, social media and important customer info — all while maintaining their brand essence and keeping it colorful with lovely photos and typography. They would definitely be one we’d point to as getting it right in the industry.