Whether or not 2011 is the year of mobile, "mobile" will certainly be the buzzword of the year. As marketers figure out how to put full legal disclaimers into a single pixel and publishers look to mobile-optimize their sites, research on health seekers' current mobile behavior needs to be considered.
I have read a flurry of stats and infographics depicting the growing usage of mobile phones. The basic gist is that smartphone usage has hit critical mass and is here to stay, likely outpacing desktop usage in the next five years. Mobile users have a bifurcated means of consuming information through apps and browsers, and health mobile users are no different. Fundamental stats include:
Across the industry, we are all paying attention and primed to do something soon. But, this does not mean that we should just re-purpose the same banner creative into HTML5, or condense an entire website into an app. Instead, we must consider what motivates mobile health users and what topics they are seeking and consuming.
Last week, I heard Shelley Hendrix Reynolds, the director of state advocacy for Autism Speaks and parent of an autistic kid, speak about her experience getting her son diagnosed with autism in the '90's. She recalled a point in time where she was stuck in a car for a couple of hours, considering for the first time that her son might be autistic, and the only thing she "knew" about autism was that it was caused by mothers. In her story, she was tormented by this urban myth for an entire weekend, but today she would have immediately pulled out her smartphone and began to search.
Mobile health information seekers are different because they exhibit a heighted sense of urgency, emotion and privacy. At HealthCentral, here are some of the behaviors we have seen:
These data points emphasize that people turn to their mobile phones to find immediate answers to personal questions. In order to put users first, we must make sure that our content is discoverable and useful. Mobile SERP rankings matter and so do App Store rankings. It's less about whether you create an app or mobile-optimize your site and more about where you can gain traction. Don't try to make health sexy and, instead, focus on content and ad experiences that help information seekers on their cross-platform health journeys.