Why is mobile friendliness important? 

  • It minimizes the digital divide:  Making your site mobile friendly and ensuring that it’s easily accessible to all claimants (and potential claimants) promotes equity. Sites that aren’t mobile friendly disproportionately disadvantage people of color: according to a 2021 Pew Research Foundation Report, “Eight-in-ten White adults report owning a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 69% of Black adults and 67% of Hispanic adults. Eight-in-ten White adults also report having a broadband connection at home, while smaller shares of Black and Hispanic adults say the same – 71% and 65%, respectively.” 
  • It lessens burden on your staff: Many states have received complaints from claimants who are unable to access their claim using a mobile device, or who have difficulty using the site on a mobile device. Ensuring your site is mobile friendly may minimize the volume of related customer-service calls and requests for assistance, freeing up staff time to focus on other complex tasks. 
  • It’s a best practice: Customers expect a site to be mobile friendly – sites that aren’t may be viewed as outdated, inefficient, or irrelevant and may diminish the public’s trust in an organization. Just as customers expect private-sector sites to be mobile friendly, they have the same expectation for government sites (source).   

Ways to make your site mobile friendly  

There are three primary approaches to making your claimant experience mobile friendly and thus improving the user experience (UX): 

  • Making your site mobile responsive. Making your site mobile responsive involves adding a “presentation layer” to your existing site using JavaScript or CSS. This presentation layer doesn’t change the content of your site, but rather updates the organization and styling of each webpage. States that chose this option took between a few days and six months to make their sites mobile responsive. Your state’s timeframe will vary based on how many webpages you’re working with, the structure of the initial code, and the IT framework within which you’re working. States often choose this option as a starting point before undertaking a full mobile redesign.  
  • Doing a full mobile redesign of your site. This option requires the most time and effort – redesigns commonly take at least four months and are often undertaken as part of a larger modernization or UX update. A redesign involves reworking key interactions, reorganizing webpage content, conducting a plain-language review and testing, and changing styling to be mobile responsive. The result is that the redesigned site is fully optimized for mobile devices. 
  • Creating native mobile apps for download in iOS App Store and the Android Play Store.  The best native apps leverage the ability to send push notifications to remind claimants to, for example, record work searches or complete their weekly certification. A native app is coded, tested, and deployed separately from the site and is specific to each operating system (iOS or Android) and must be compatible with a wide range of devices; all of this results in native mobile apps being an expense incurred on top of making the website mobile friendly. If you choose to build native mobile apps, you’ll need to build them for both iOS and Android. Android is particularly important for reaching communities of color: data from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies “show that 66 percent of African Americans and 62 percent of Latinos use Android smartphones.” 

Limitations of native apps  

As you’re considering how best to make your UI content mobile friendly, we encourage you to think about several of the key limitations of native apps, outlined in the following quotation from The Missed Opportunity in Online Benefits Applications: Mobile First:  “...consider the value of native applications from a user perspective: most popular native phone applications are used weekly, if not daily. Very few users are willing to download a native application for a single use or for interactions that occur [infrequently or for a limited period of time]. Furthermore, native applications require a range of permissions and access to your phone, which implies a degree of trust between the developer and the user. Unfortunately many segments of the population that apply for benefits have low trust, or at least low familiarity, in state health and human services agencies. They may balk at installing a clunky native application (and its necessary updates), or simply lack access to the fast, stable internet necessary to download native applications, which can take up significant phone storage space.” (source

Focus on mobile-friendly websites, not native apps 

If your state or territory doesn’t already have a mobile version of your site, you’re encouraged to start by making your site mobile responsive. This option is quicker, easier, and less expensive than a full redesign or building a new native app, and it will provide your customers with the mobile experience.  

  • The changes you’ll make to enable mobile friendliness are a subset of a full redesign, so no work will be wasted if you later choose to do a full redesign. You can also work on these changes either in parallel or before making the broader UX changes accompanying a redesign. The benefit of making only styling changes is that these can be undertaken much more quickly, both in development and quality assurance testing. 
  • Consider starting by making your initial claim application mobile responsive. The initial claim application is a claimant’s entry point into the UI system, and it’s critical that all potential claimants can access the application easily. If a claimant can’t access and easily complete the initial application, they’ll most likely give up on applying for benefits.  
  • After you’ve successfully deployed the mobile responsive initial claim application, consider starting work on the weekly certification application, and then appeals and fact-finding submissions. Finally, when both your initial claim and weekly certification applications are mobile responsive, you can address other webpages of the online claimant portal. 

Evaluate your website and reach out for support 

Whatever your state’s current ability to make your site more mobile friendly, there are steps you can take today to start improving your customers’ experience: 

  • Content:  
    • Style and arrange content so it’s readable without people needing to zoom in or rotate their device. 
    • Keep content as concise as possible without sacrificing meaning. Avoid large blocks of text, and use bulleted lists, when appropriate, to promote easier scanning.  
  • Interactions
    • Rely on “tap” interactions as much as possible: Typing is challenging on mobile devices, so use autofill and predictive text, where appropriate, in addition to using interactions like “date pickers” instead of text fields. 
    • Ensure “tap targets” are large enough that they can be easily used without requiring customers to tap around to find them.  
  • Functionality:  
    • Enable customers to upload images in addition to PDFs or other scanned files: Many people’s phones are their only way to digitize content. 
    • Prioritize key tasks: Because claimants are working on a smaller screen (and could be in a more distracted state than they would be if they were using a laptop/desktop), it’s essential that key tasks (jobs to be done) are prioritized. You can accomplish this by using proper information hierarchy and including only one primary action per screen. 

Using the email link below, reach out to the DOL Office of UI Modernization to get help in making your site mobile friendly.