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About.com enhances mobile user experience with site overhaul

About.com redesign

About.com has given its how-to Web site its first major redesign in nearly a decade to make navigation easier and reach mobile users.

The site’s 85 million monthly users now can intuitively navigate About.com’s content on any device across its major vertical categories, including Health, Home, Travel, Tech, Style, Food, Money and Careers. The moves are intended to address how visitors to the site often have an immediate need for specific content. 

“A lot of our content serves an immediate need,” said Brian Colbert, About.com’s chief revenue officer. For example, if you are about to cook dinner and you need a recipe for lasagna, you have a real immediate need for that content. Or if you are feeling ill and have a fever, you get an immediate need to figure out what ails you. 

“The intent part of our consumption is very different from most other publishers which tends to be more on the leisure side and entertainment side,” he said. “That’s been a key factor in our mobile growth is that core basis of intent. The user has a real desire for this content and at a specific time.”

Native advertising
The new site includes a suite of native advertising and content marketing options for marketers, allowing brands to create conversations with users.

Along with other online resource sites and encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, 18-year-old About.com is under pressure to find ways to meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated mobile consumer who is growing accustomed to getting lightning-fast answers to his research questions.

As of January 2014, 90 percent of U.S. adults had a cell phone, 58 percent owned a smartphone and 42 percent had a tablet computer, according to the Pew Research Internet Project.

Mobile now drives nearly 40 percent of About.com’s traffic. 

With its last update six to eight years ago, the unit of New York-based IAC/InterActiveCorp was due for a facelift to better serve the mobile user.

“Given the huge influx of traffic that is now on a mobile platform, it was the impetus we needed to put resources behind the mobile platform,” Mr. Colbert said.  “We took a big swing at revitalizing the site and making navigation much easier for the user.” 

A look inside About.com's Health channel.

The redesign makes it much easier to navigate and read About.com’s 3.5 million pieces of content, including articles by nearly 1,000 writers, enhancing user engagement.

Cross-channel navigation
The overhaul also lets users move more effortlessly among channels. 

“It was difficult for the user in the old site to navigate around the larger site,” Mr. Colbert said. “If you were reading an article on the Money section, it wasn’t easy for you to get to the Homes section or the Technology section. So we’ve made the navigation much easier both within the overall site and also within each channel.”

A “hamburger” menu at the top of the screen allows the user to drop down and see portions of a specific channel while remaining free to navigate to other portions of the site. 

“The mobile picture is still evolving,” Mr. Colbert said.  “We’re still putting a lot of resources into learning how users engage with the site. Each channel is a little bit different. The Health channel is more mobile than the Home and Garden channel. Our Style channel is more mobile than our Travel channel. 

“The second step of our mobile strategy and our redesign is to optimize each channel to make sure it’s delivering the best mobile experience,” he said. 

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.

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Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

 
Related content: Search, Brian Colbert, About.com, mobile, mobile marketing, mobile commerce

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