Is Your Site Mobile Ready? 6 Things to Consider When Making Your Mobile Site

It is estimated that 90% of companies are either entirely ignoring or at least woefully lacking in mobile device support for their web sites.  This is a massive percentage when you consider at how popular mobile web surfing has become in just the past year -- mobile has exploded onto the scene!  By 2013 it is estimated that almost half (48%) of web searches will be done via mobile devices.

This begs the question: is your web site mobile ready? If not, there are a few things you should consider when updating your site/services.

Compatibility: In November (2011), Adobe announced their discontinuation of Flash for mobile devices. The discontinuation came amidst complaints about the software’s interchangeability between different mobile devices. Also former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs (a long time opponent of Flash) refused to deploy Flash on iPads and iPhones, creating an anti-Flash movement among mobile users.  His reasoning: Flash drains mobile device batteries far too quickly, slows the device performance, and basically just creates issues.  To add insult to injury, end users cannot typical tell that Flash is the culprit, so the “blame” falls to the device itself!  Instead, HTML5 and JQuery have become standard technologies on all Apple products, and with the recent death of Flash mobile, they have become the universal software solution/platform for mobile devices. That said; make sure your site is running standard HTML with JQuery and not outdated Adobe Flash software, to ensure all users can access your site from a mobile device.

Navigation: Make sure your site is easy to navigate! The way a user navigates a site via computer may be very different than how one navigates a phone screen. Phone screens are smaller; touch operated (most of the time by a finger) and serves a different purpose.  As such, “mouse-overs” don’t even exist in the mobile world, and Flash-based navigational menus won’t work (see above).  Mobile users are looking for a quick and easy way to get the information that they need, while on the go, which could mean that your site navigation needs to be simplified from desktop-centric formats to a more mobile-friendly format. Often, this means building a specific, cut-down, mobile version of your site and having the website auto-sense whether it’s a desktop or a mobile client accessing it, and serve up the appropriate site version.  This is not a trivial undertaking, but some sites are seeing upwards of 4x as many mobile users as desktop users these days, so the time, effort and expense is certainly worth it.

Content: There is nothing worse than accessing a mobile site only to get bombarded with massive amounts of content that requires what seems like endless finger scrolling. Not to completely reiterate what was outlined above, but mobile users are looking for quick and easy ways of getting information. And endless finger scrolling is not an optimal way to get that information. When create mobile content think bullet points instead of paragraphs; what would you want to see if you were visiting your site? After you have finished creating your content, go on your mobile site and read through the content, if you get annoyed by the amount of reading required on the small format screen, then chances are there is still too much content.

Speed: This point kind of touches on each of the others, but speed is essential! Not only do your customers want an easy-to-use site that is content-friendly and works with their device, but they also want it to work as fast as possible, and using as little bandwidth as possible.  Remember:  Mobile users are connected over relatively slow cellular networks, usually pay for bandwidth.  Plus, more often than not they’re on-the-go and are looking up something because they want an answer “NOW!”  They expect, and even demand, a fast, responsive, lightweight site.

Landing Page: The landing page (or homepage) is the lifeblood of your mobile presence. Similarly to computer-based sites, the landing page of your mobile site is the users first impression of your brand. If your landing page is slow, hard to navigate, full of unnecessary content or just flat out doesn’t work with your user’s mobile device, then chances are you lost the user at “hello.”

Mobile-Friendly versus Mobile Version:  One of the first issues that one faces when considering mobile is the very question “what really constitutes mobile?”   Smartphones like iPhones and Android phones certainly apply.  But how far down the capabilities list do we go?  Do we want to support all the way down to text-mode-only devices?  This must be answered on a case-by-case basis, and is largely a business decision that must factor in cost-versus-value tradeoffs and the law of diminishing returns.   Furthermore, many mobile devices, such as “smartphones” and tablets, can load a site within a browser window, albeit shrunk down to the extreme.  Thus, this begs the question of cost-versus-value tradeoffs to determine where the “good enough” solution lies.  It may be acceptable to merely make tweaks to one’s web site to allow it to function normally on mobile (remove Flash, fix mouse-overs, etc.) but operate it as a single, “normal” site that’s merely “mobile friendly.”  In some cases even that still isn’t good enough and you will want to consider an entirely separate “mobile version” of the site that’s entirely and specifically optimized for mobile devices.

As you can see, there are quite a few items to review when thinking about mobile versions of web sites.  In some cases, it makes sense to merely tweak an existing site to be “compatible” with mobile devices.  In other cases, an entirely separate mobile version should be created. Of course, 401 Consulting would be happy to sit and review your specific case with you, and provide our expert opinions as appropriate.