Is Your Website Ready for The Mobile Web?
Nearly half of America has a phone capable of browsing the Internet, and according to the New York Times, that’s exactly what they’re using them for. Given the pervasiveness of smart phones — not to mention new developments in tablet computing — browsing the Internet is no longer an office-only activity. Just imagine how many more potential customers could be searching for your business? You’d better get ready for them — and make sure your website’s current format is easily accessible to someone “on-the-go”!
Evaluating your site
Go ahead and visit your site on a desktop computer. Now get your hands on a smart phone and visit your site. Sure, it looks great on that large desktop monitor, but what do you see on the mobile device? Perhaps you get a blank page insisting that you install Adobe Flash Player, or maybe there are a few blank spaces on your page. That’s because many mobile browsers can’t render that fancy Flash animation that you based your site on. If the device is compatible with Flash, how long does it take to load? Does your site have high-resolution images or videos? Those look great on a user’s high-speed home connection, but are crippling on a cellular data connection. Of course, maybe your site looks just fine — except its really tiny… and/or completely illegible. Your web designer may not have planned for it to be viewed on such a small screen.
Now that we know what a mobile user sees when they visit your site, let’s consider why someone might visit your site on his or her phone. Be realistic — they probably aren’t there to watch a commercial for your newest product, or play a game based on your company’s mascot. They are most likely looking for your phone number or nearest location. If you have an e-commerce system, they may even be comparison-shopping in real time. You need to consider the speed of their connection — and the speed of life in 2011 — and remove any obstacles that stand in the mobile user’s way. They do not have time to wait for your site to download and they won’t go much further than three or four zoom-ins and clicks before they move on to your competitor’s easy-access mobile site.
Making your site mobile-friendly
One solution is to create an alternate version of your website just for mobile devices. Your site can automatically redirect mobile browsers to a secondary web page with contact and location info right up front, large visible buttons, a single column layout, and small-screen optimized graphics. Great examples of mobile sites can be found at Target.com or Bestbuy.com. Visit either on a mobile device and you’ll find Products, Store Locator and a Search fields on the front page in a compact design. They still have room for their ad of the week, and no product or feature is more than a click or two away. This is what mobile browsing should feel like.
Talk to your agency about adding a mobile page to your existing site. If you are planning a new website, even better; you can design it from the ground up with mobile-friendly devices and formats. This is the ideal situation, as it’s better to have one site with a flexible infrastructure than to try managing separate sites for mobile phones, tablet computers and desktops.
When planning your new site, keep these two buzz phrases in mind: “feature detection” and “responsive web design.” Ideally, you want your new website to DETECT the FEATURES supported by various browsers and devices being used and to RESPOND by providing a WEB DESIGN customized to the needs of each user. If you maximize the unique capabilities of the user’s device format and adapt to the needs of the user based on where they are browsing from, you’ll get this mobile web thing under control.