With the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet devices, it becomes more important for any website to be mobile-friendly. In fact, without a mobile-friendly website you may be in danger of alienating a significant proportion of your potential audience!
With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why you should be casting a critical eye over your current website:
Mobile access is spreading
Back in 2010, Morgan Stanley predicted that by December 2014 more people would be accessing the Internet on mobile devices than on traditional desktop/laptop devices. Those predictions have proved to be accurate so far, as mobile access has been steadily catching up with the traditional models.
Mobile users are shaping the web
It seems that mobile users are often disproportionately valuable. One recent report by Latitude Research found that 60% of people form better opinions of brands with a positive mobile experience. This is really no mystery to anyone who’s had a frustrating mobile experience on a site that clearly wasn’t ready for mobile traffic. If your site isn’t mobile optimised for an increasingly mobile driven Internet, you’re only providing your visitors with a compelling reason to search for a brand that is.
Mobiles users are a lucrative customer segment
Another report worth noting comes from Adobe Digital Marketing Insights, and found that tablet users spend on average 50% more than smartphone users, and 20% more than those on laptops and desktops. The same report goes on to conclude that tablet visitors are more than three times as likely to make a purchase.
Mobile & SEO
As if that weren’t reason enough, the rapid expansion of mobile internet use also means that mobile search is on the rise. Today mobile searching is estimated to account for more than a quarter of all searches. If your business has any interest in SEO, ignoring mobile will soon be no longer possible.
What is a mobile-friendly site?
Quite simply, a mobile-friendly site is one which has been designed to display on a mobile device without any problems or irritations for visitors:
- visitors should not need to zoom in order to read small text
- visitors should not need to scroll left and right in order to read an article
- the site should not require the download of large images in order to display correctly
- menus items should be spaced out sufficiently to allow easy selection on small touch-screen devices
- the site should not rely on browser plug-ins (such as Flash, etc.) which may not be available on mobile platforms
How can this be achieved?
There are two basic approaches to making a site mobile-friendly:
Create a “mobile only” version of the site
One approach is to create a separate version of the site for display on mobile devices. Visitors to the main site are then automatically redirected to the mobile version if they are using a mobile device.
A mobile version of a site would typically be a very stripped down version of the main site, or even be presented to look more like a mobile app. Content on the mobile version of the site would often be also be more minimalistic, as people browsing on mobile are less likely to be searching for simple curiosity and more likely to be searching for concrete information.
A website built with a responsive design will automatically adapt it’s layout to fit the screen on which it is being viewed. This means that whatever device your visitors use, the site should just work.
Which approach is best?
There is no “one size fits all” approach, and the best option will depend on various factors.
- Having a separate, mobile version of your web site means that both the design of the site and it’s content can be tailored to the mobile marketplace. However, maintaining two separate copies of the website will double the amount of time you spend updating the site contents.
- A responsive design will mean that you will need to spend less time working on the content of the website, although there is no easy way of tailoring the content for mobile visitors.
- Another criticism that is often made of responsive web sites is that they can require more data to be downloaded than a dedicated mobile site. Whilst this is certainly true, by adopting a “mobile-first” approach to the design it is possible to create a responsive website that does not lead to excessive data usage on mobile devices.
If you are setting up a site specifically targeted at mobile devices and can budget the time to maintain more than 1 copy of the site, it might be worth considering taking the “mobile only” approach.
However, in most instances I would currently suggest creating a responsive web site that can be easily maintained. This is especially true for small businesses that perhaps don’t have the resources to allocate time to updating 2 separate websites.