Industry News & Trends

Leave the Screen Open: How to Deliver Screen-Friendly Experiences

I found myself squinting at the letter “N”.

That’s all I could see after I pinched and zoomed in on one guitar after another on the musicians’ gear website that appeared on my smartphone. I zoomed out a little so I could read a little more of the text, but I had to keep scrolling right and left and up and down to get the gist of the message. Do you know what I did? I exited the site… probably never to return. And I really loved one of the Gibsons, too!

Multi-screen shoppers

I’m sure you’ve experienced the joy of viewing a full website on a cell phone, or even a tablet. At last check, 31% of website traffic on the Cobalt networks is now coming from tablets and mobile devices. And that percentage is NOT trending downward. So it’s vitally important to have a clear multi-screen strategy in place for your dealership.

Let’s begin with your shoppers. An understanding of why consumers shop the way they do is central to delivering a good experience, no matter how they encounter you. As consumers ourselves, we know the operative word is convenience, and in this case that means they must be able to access your site (i.e., inventory, hours & directions page, why buy messaging, etc.) no matter what device they have at their disposal at any given time. And, when I say ‘access,’ I mean they must not only be able to get to it; they also have to be able to actually gather information and navigate successfully.

91% of those surveyed in the 2014 Salesforce Mobile Behavior Report said being able to access information however they choose was important to their shopping experience. The other 9% are apparently rife with spare time.

Speaking of spare time, today’s shoppers don’t have much, so many regularly engage in something we would’ve thought incredible just a few short years ago: dual screening. As the term implies, this enigma involves someone utilizing multiple devices simultaneously and staying somewhat connected on each.

Studies have found that 78% of dual screening is multitasking. For example, you might be watching golf on your flat screen TV while surfing baseball scores on your tablet. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, is it?

Mobile automotive consumers may very well be watching a ballgame while looking at Buicks. With your shopper’s attention spread so thin across so many screens, it’s critical we deliver the kind of experience capable of keeping and piquing what little attention we already have, regardless of the device he’s utilizing.


So, let’s differentiate devices a bit.

First, desktop use is traditionally focused on productivity-related activities. For car shoppers, that includes research, payment calculators, email and scheduling forms, and credit requests.

Tablets encourage behavior that’s more casual and consumptive, with not as much input from the user. They’re more likely to be used to view inventory and read reviews.

Finally, mobile devices bring a completely different experience to the user. Because smartphones are so personal, the smartphone experience is about feeling connected and in control. For example, according to the 2013 Mobile Path to Purchase study, 42% of smartphone users search in their cars, and 36% of them convert within an hour of their initial inquiry.

Responsive vs. Adaptive Design 

The tasks for a desktop user are often very different from those of a smartphone user looking for directions to your dealership. The challenge for car dealers is to shift your strategy to be more device-centric in your design and content delivery – something much easier written than done. Multi-screen design should cater to task driven experiences.

Another of the challenges revolves around the debate between responsive and adaptive design. Responsive utilizes a single design that reflows across multiple displays, while adaptive design
assigns templates that are optimal and unique for each device class.

Responsive vs. Adaptive Design - do you know the difference?
Responsive vs. Adaptive Design – do you know the difference?

Good news – Google has endorsed both, so either path is fundamentally capable of supporting your SEO requirements. But, frankly, when it comes to crafting your multi-screen strategy, this choice is not what’s at the heart. It’s just a part. It’s not the end of the discussion. It’s just the beginning.

Design is only one facet of successful cross-device content delivery. There are actually four main components that need to be considered— Design, Content, Device & Technology. Let’s
stay with Design for now.

Visual design plays a huge role in brand perception. Data suggests that old and outdated design can have a strong influence on negative brand perception and design requirements vary across screens.

These three examples will help make the challenges of cross-device design more tangible:

Example 1 

Cross-Device Design


In our first example, look at the differences between screen views. The hero image is inviting, clear and concise. Unfortunately, the text is where the problem lies – both in terms of size and contrast ratio. It’s hard enough to read the model name on the desktop, harder still on smaller screens.

Example 2

Cross-Device Design

In spite of the great vehicle image and legible headline in Example 2, the ‘read the small print’ disclaimer gives the viewer a less-than-engaging experience when you downsize it to tablet or mobile size. A font size that’s barely large enough for desktop shoppers is far too small for smartphone browsing. A quick 3-second scan is often the best way to determine how a page will be viewed, especially on a smaller device. And this one doesn’t pass the test.

Example 3

Multi-screen user experience

Example 3 shows pretty clearly what to do. The vehicle image and complementary visuals are compelling. The text-to-image contrast is strong. And font type and size is appropriate for all
screens. When you’re working to deliver an effective multi-screen user experience, dealers
need to use attractive imagery that scales appropriately and easily legible fonts that maintain
their readability no matter what device is used to access your site.

Don’t Shut the Screen Door

We’ve all visited sites that weren’t optimized for mobile. Pinch-zoom navigation simply doesn’t work. Visual assets that don’t align with click and touch events frustrate mobile users. Your site might be responsive. Or it might be adaptive. It doesn’t matter if it can’t support a fat finger tap!

Just remember, even with so many things to consider, your ultimate goal should be to create and deliver meaningful and informative experiences for your consumers. Don’t make them squint, figuratively OR literally, to see your message!

What’s your biggest pinch and zoom pet peeve? What other obstacles do we face in designing cross-device experiences?

For more on the responsive vs. adaptive debate and the other pillars of multi-screen strategy, check out our on-demand webinar, So Many Screens, So Little Time – Reaching Car Shoppers Across Devices.

Jon Quade is a highly recognized trainer in the industry, given his 8000+ hours on camera & years of seminar experience with OEM clients like Fo...