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What Mobile Means for Politics


recent report found that in the fourth quarter of last year, almost a third of all Internet traffic was coming from mobile devices. Meanwhile, ComScore forecasts that 2014 will be the year that mobile traffic overtakes desktop and Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer predicted that by the end of 2014 Yahoo “will have more mobile traffic than PC traffic.” And with Facebook’s recent acquisition of mobile messaging company WhatsApp, mobile is yet again in the news.

Those trends in mobile usage don’t just impact Silicon Valley acquisitions. Aggregate traffic numbers for NGP VAN’s customers show that visitors to websites in the progressive community are following similar trends. This month almost 30% of all traffic to NGP VAN’s client websites came from mobile devices, up from roughly 25% just six months ago.


If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, visitors to your site won’t just have to squint to read your latest press release – potential donors may find it too difficult to make a contribution, volunteers might not be able to sign up and conversion rates across all your forms may perform lower. NGP VAN has taken a three-step approach to ensure that your supporters have the best possible experience no matter what device they may be using:

Mobile-responsive sites and forms. For the uninitiated, mobile-responsive technology allows us to build websites and forms that automatically change based on the characteristics of the browser that is accessing the site. That allows us to build one site that looks great whether you’re on a desktop, a table, a phone, or anything in-between.

As you can see below, we use mobile-responsive technology to change everything from the width of the site to the navigation and we can even choose not to display larger images that may take longer to download on a mobile device.

(The Reed Award-winning Ready for Hillary site as it transforms from the desktop all the way down to the phone view)

Lowering the barrier to action. In addition to making sure that our websites and forms look great on mobile devices, we also spend a lot of time thinking about how we can make it as easy as possible for supporters to take action on mobile devices. Filling out a contribution form may be fairly straightforward when you’re on a desktop with a full size keyboard, but even just typing in a 16-digit credit card number is exponentially more difficult when you’re using your phone on a bumpy bus ride during your morning commute.

To make it as easy as possible for our clients’ supporters to take action no matter what sort of device they may be using, we employ a number of different techniques to increase conversion rates. That ranges from something as simple as making sure that the right keyboard is used if a supporter is inputting text or numeric data (such as a phone number), to much more sophisticated technology. For instance, campaigns and organizations can send emails using our SmartLink tool that will pre-populate a supporter’s address when they click on a link to take action. NV Profile has seven million profiles (and counting!) that can be used to pre-populate pages. And perhaps one of our most advanced tools – FastAction –allows supporters make one-click contributions and save their information (including credit card) so they don’t have to re-enter it when they use many of NGP VAN’s forms.


Native mobile applications where it makes sense. A discussion of mobile wouldn’t be complete without talking about native mobile applications, or apps that live on supporter’s mobile devices. Up until this point we’ve mostly been talking about how supporters can interact with campaigns and organizations through their mobile browser, but here at NGP VAN we also believe that native mobile applications can play an important role as well. That’s why we worked with the Obama campaign on their 2012 app, which put a tool in supporters’ hands that allowed them to canvass when it was convenient to them.

MiniVAN, NGP VAN’s Reed Award-winning (and free!) mobile canvassing application for iOS and Android, is a perfect example of when native mobile applications make sense instead of a mobile responsive solution. Canvassers knocking on doors may not always have the reliable Internet connection needed to access a site through their mobile browser, MiniVAN makes it easy to download walk lists, record results and save them for uploading later. Creating a native mobile app also gives us more control over the user interface canvassers see as well as the battery consumption of the device, two things that are critical for tasks like canvassing which involve heavy usage and complex interactions.



As a community, we’re only touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how mobile will change the way organizations campaign. Here at NGP VAN, we’re continuing to think about what’s possible as supporters start interacting with campaigns and organizations through mobile devices – devices with built-in phones, cameras, address books, location awareness, accelerometers and a form factor that means supporters can take those devices almost anywhere.

Topics: Digital