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"Tap Into Mobile" Brings Modern Design to Mobile Marketing

Since 1996, the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has been the standard-bearer for interactive advertising on the web. The rapid growth of internet-enabled mobile devices has prompted the launch of the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, which offers tools, guidance, and resources to help companies improve their ability to connect with customers no matter where they are. We talked to Joe Laszlo, senior director of the center, about the "Tap Into Mobile" initiative and how designers, vendors, and companies can work together.

What is the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence?

The IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence is an independently funded and staffed unit inside the Interactive Advertising Bureau, charged with driving the growth of the mobile marketing, advertising and media marketplace.

The Mobile Center devotes resources to market and consumer research, mobile advertising case studies, executive training and education, supply chain standardization, creative showcases and best practice identification in the burgeoning field of mobile media and marketing. Our work helps members and the broader mobile marketplace enable profitable revenue growth for companies engaged in mobile marketing, communications and advertising.

Joe Laszlo

Senior Director
IAB Mobile Marketing
Center of Excellence

What is the "Tap Into Mobile" initiative and how did it get started?

Tap into Mobile is an IAB program dedicated to helping businesses build a better mobile web, by providing them with insights and resources to make their websites more mobile-friendly. On the Tap into Mobile website, businesses can use the IAB Mobilizer tool to see how their sites look on a mobile device. The site also has information on current mobile trends and mobile site best practices, as well as a list of developers ready to help companies build their mobile sites.

We started Tap Into Mobile in mid-2012 after hearing from Mobile Center members that even marketers interested in mobile advertising often hadn’t thought about what a mobile consumer would see AFTER that ad, if they went to the marketer’s site to get more information or make a purchase.

Who should be interested in "Tap Into Mobile" and why?

Marketers looking to learn more about what it means to offer consumers a productive and enjoyable mobile experience will get a lot out of Tap Into Mobile. Agencies and media companies that want a third-party “impartial” reference on the importance of the mobile web will also find it a useful resource to share with their partners or clients. And the growing community of vendors and software developers that exist to help build mobile-friendly sites will hopefully find the site a useful source of business leads.

What tools do you offer businesses looking to analyze how their sites appear on mobile devices?

Tap Into Mobile features a simple simulation tool we call the IAB Mobilizer. The mobilizer lets someone input any web address (“URL”) and then, within the Tap Into Mobile PC website, it shows what that web page looks like on a phone-sized screen. The Mobilizer then asks some simple questions about the purpose of the website and its appearance in the mobilizer. It then offers tailored pointers and things to think about to determine whether a consumer on a phone is likely to have a good experience with that site.

Why is it so important for businesses to have an effective mobile presence?

Businesses need to be where their customers are. That, increasingly, is on mobile devices. More than half of mobile phone users in the US now have smartphones, and tablet adoption continues to grow strongly. Whether at home or on the go, when someone wants to be informed, entertained, or to reach out to a friend, loved one, or business, it’s increasingly likely that a phone or tablet is the first device they’ll reach for to accomplish that task.

What do the leaders in the mobile space do that others don't?

The companies with the best mobile web presences put a lot of thought into the mindset and needs of a mobile consumer. Rather than simply reformatting an entire PC webpage so that it’s legible on a mobile screen, they reorganize the page’s content, so that those features that are most likely to be what a mobile user is looking for, are front and center, and extraneous features are omitted (saving bandwidth, and therefore time). Retailers that do mobile right, for example, will always prioritize a store locator. Of course, they still need to offer access to the full capabilities of the corporate site, too; some consumers will inevitably want something unexpected. But creating a quick and easy path for a time-strapped mobile user to get to what they’re most likely to want will lead to happier customers, and more business.

What role does design play in separating a good mobile experience from a poor one?

The small screens of mobile devices make good design imperative in ensuring a good mobile experience. There are two main things a designer can do to elevate a mobile experience. First, I’ve just suggested a good mobile site should be stripped-down, with extraneous features pared away. But mobile devices today are beautiful, and consumers expect the content on them to be beautiful as well.The art of packing a lot of richness and beauty into a small space (and economizing on bandwidth too) is what a good designer will bring to the mobile table.

Second, maximizing the capabilities of the device is also an important design factor. For example, the intuitive touch user interface is possibly the most revolutionary thing about modern smartphones, and good design will incorporate touch into a mobile site.

Some “mobile” sites ignore that a phone is a phone. If you’re a business with a call center, let users springboard straight from your mobile site to a phone call with you. One last example would be the way the two orientations of a phone, portrait mode and landscape mode, unlock the possibility of delivering different types of functionality depending on how the consumer is holding their device.

Of course, not every company or every site needs to leverage every mobile bell and whistle; in fact, they probably shouldn’t. But a good designer will start from the list of things the site needs to do, and map those against mobile device capabilities, and deliver an experience that makes accomplishing the key needs as easy as possible.

What are some of the important trends you're seeing in mobile design?

As mobile screen sizes proliferate, it’s getting harder and harder to tailor content or build a site for each one individually. There’s a lot of interest in a technology called “responsive design” (responsive web design, to be precise) that promises to simplify that. It automates the process of fitting content to the screen real estate available to it, changing the layout of a page to fit any screen that page may be served to.

Of course, responsive design is a tool, not magic, and so it’s still going to be imperative for human beings to make sure that it is deployed successfully, and to test, test, test, to make sure that every mobile user will have a good experience. Also, it’s important to realize that even though responsive design is “just” a design solution, it will have significant business impacts for media companies in terms of what kinds of ads can run on a site and where they are positioned. Understanding both the business and design implications is important for any company considering a move to a responsive-based site. The IAB just released a paper on this topic, which is free to download here:

How does Tap Into Mobile put developers/designers in touch with businesses looking to improve their mobile presence?

Tap Into Mobile includes a directory of software vendors, agencies, and designers with expertise in mobile-optimizing web content. We vet each company that goes into the directory, and are actively working to expand it. If Tap Into Mobile helps persuade businesses that they need to “go mobile,” we also hope that it can help those businesses figure out how to do that, by helping them align with a vendor that suits their needs.

  • About IAB

    The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 500 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States. On behalf of its members, the IAB is dedicated to the growth of the interactive advertising marketplace, of interactive’s share of total marketing spend, and of its members’ share of total marketing spend. The IAB educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. Working with its member companies, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City with a Public Policy office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

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