Mobile Digital Pain PointsIt’s vacation time. That means fun, sun and, for many people, staying connected with the office via their mobile phone.

According to a recent Harris poll, nearly three out of four Americans admitted they would be angry if they lost their smartphone on vacation because they wouldn't be able to check in at work. But about 51 percent of U.S. adults would rather have a root canal than work [on their mobile phones] while on vacation.

Experiences customers either love or hate

Given the extremes of emotion people feel about mobile devices alone, the same polarity applies to the digital experiences they have there. A flawless experience? Now that’s love. Anything less is like a root canal.

So what constitutes a “great” mobile experience? There are three main characteristics to a great mobile experience, some of which may surprise you: speed, great design and great conversation.

Mobile users’ need for speed

In general, mobile users have high expectations for mobile download speed. For example, in a November 2012 study of US Internet, smartphone and tablet users, 59 percent of participants said download speed was the leading factor for determining whether a mobile website was “good.”

A fast download requires more than tight code. Fundamental design decisions -- such as using responsive web design (RWD) or a more adaptive design approach -- can have a huge impact on speed.

RWD is a client-centric approach that delivers multiple channels’ worth of HTML content to the requesting device. The device then determines what to display, typically using grids that roughly correspond with the screen widths of three key devices: smartphone, tablet and desktop.

Responsive web design … isn’t

In fact, RWD websites send an extraordinary amount of unnecessary content to mobile device. This was proven in a test done by the folks at Akamai Technologies, who loaded 471 responsive design websites in a Google Chrome browser sized to one of four different screen resolutions (1024 x 768, 1600 x 1200, 320 x 480, 640 x 960).

The study showed that, on average, pages on the smallest screen only loaded nine percent less data than those on the largest screen. Overall, nearly three-quarters of the sites analyzed downloaded roughly the same number of bytes to all screens, regardless of the screen’s size.

The moral of the story: RWD quickly generates a large amount of unnecessary overhead. Response times can plummet in seconds, and mobile users hate when that happens.

Mobile users love an optimized experience

“One size fits all” is an ill-conceived promise in general, and in particular when it’s applied to mobile content. RWD sites are, by definition, smaller versions of their big-screen brethren; it’s applying “one size fits all” to digital content.

To deliver a great mobile experience, content should be optimized for the mobile channel. It should be designed to be consumed in a way that is consistent with the way people use their mobile phones, and the size of their individual device. (For example, some mobile phones’ larger screen sizes border on mini tablet size.)

Marketers need tools that allow them to actually visualize what the mobile experience will look like, while that experience is being created.

A mobile preview function lets content editors preview how content will look on a wide range of devices.