This post appeared in The Wichita Eagle business section on June 2, 2011.
Today it’s not enough for your business to have a website. You must also have a mobile-friendly option. Mobile traffic continues to explode, and if your site is difficult to use, your customers will go elsewhere.
Apple alone has sold more than 187 million iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). And Apple isn’t even the market leader. Today, Google’s Android is the fastest-growing mobile platform, activating 400,000 new devices every day.
You can check your website analytics to see how much mobile traffic you’re currently receiving, what devices are visiting and how long people are sticking around.
It doesn’t have to be a big job to make your site perform better for mobile traffic. While the specific steps you should take may vary, there are some things you can do that will make your site more useful to mobile visitors.
1. Choose text over visuals
Mobile visitors are more tactical than desktop visitors. They’re not just web surfing; they’re looking for something. They may even be nearby. So make sure you’ve provided the essential information they’re seeking: location, map, hours, email and phone number. Provide a clear description of who you are and what you do. For example, if you’re a restaurant, include a menu. Make sure your customer doesn’t have to wade through a bunch of screens to find it.
2. Presentation matters
Most of your content should be presented as text. Text is an under-rated element: it’s easy to create and edit, downloads quickly, and is easily indexed by search engines. For a mobile site, it also reformats for presentation to multiple devices.
Check your website navigation and make sure it works on mobile devices. If you have Flash-based elements on your site, get rid of them. Apple devices, more than 25 percent of the smartphone market, can’t view Flash. And, for the most part, neither can Google.
3. Get a mobile theme
The next step is to make sure your site is formatted for mobile delivery. If you use a content management system such as WordPress, this is easy. Just install a mobile theme like WPTouch or Carrington Mobile. Most popular content management systems like Joomla or Drupal also support mobile themes.
Don’t despair if your site isn’t easily themed for mobile. You may be able to make your site mobile-friendly through a service that reformats your navigation, images and text for mobile delivery. WireNode, MoFuse and Zinadoo offer three alternatives.
For the ultimate mobile experience, you may want to create a dedicated app. Note, though, that only three platforms – iPhone, Android and BlackBerry – have enough critical mass to support app development. If you’re considering this route, check your analytics to see which devices are visiting your site. You will likely have to develop for at least two platforms to accommodate most mobile visitors. And for the visitors who come from other devices – you’ll still need a mobile site for them.
4. Think like your customer
Always have a link to your home page on every page of your site. Provide a way to toggle in and out of the mobile site – some people will prefer the other version. And don’t feel like you have to “mobilize” every page of your site. Think about your customers’ needs and start with the most important pages.
Today there are more than 5,000 different mobile devices. Futurists call this the “splinternet” – a web in which seemingly everyone uses a different device and a different browser. Your online success begins and ends with delivering a meaningful experience to each visitor. No matter what device they’re using.