If you’re a smartphone user, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the pain of pinching and scrolling your way across full-size websites on your phone. Chances are you’ve also attempted to visit a website on a mobile device only to realize that it won’t open because it was built with Flash and your phone doesn’t support it.
Now imagine it’s your potential customers pinching, scrolling and muddling their way through your website. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, it could have a greater impact on your bottom line than you realize. You may only have a few brief moments to capture customers’ attention while they ride the train or wait for a lunch date to arrive, and you won’t have very long before they give up and move on if they can’t easily navigate your site.
And let’s face it – mobile is here to stay. With consistent year-over-year growth in smartphone adoption, 48% of all Canadian cell phone users owned smartphones as of 2012. Even more striking, in Canada 69% of all cell phone users age 18–34 now use smartphones, while tablet ownership quadrupled between 2011 and 2012.
Combine those stats with the knowledge that Canadians also consume more online content in the world than anyone else while coming second only to Americans in how much time they spend online every month, and the imperative becomes clear for you business: it’s time for your web presence to get mobile-friendly.
That said, here are a few tips to help you figure out how to best optimize your website for mobile.
Don’t Think of Mobile as an Add-On
While it may seem like you can simply bolt a mobile strategy onto your existing website strategy, you should try to think about your business’ mobile and desktop web experience more holistically.
Start thinking about the content on your site beyond the web page – how can you better structure your web content from the get-go so it can be more easily repurposed on multiple platforms? How will you ensure that you deliver a consistent experience across mobile and desktop versions of your website, so the person searching for a product on your website using a laptop will be able to find that same product later on while using their phone at the bus stop?
By thinking about mobile as an integrated part of your overall website strategy (instead of an after-thought) you’ll be much better equipped to serve your customers in mobile spaces now, and in the future on devices that don’t even exist yet.
Understand that It’s a Mad, Mad Mobile Device World
The tricky part about mobile is that it’s a moving target – new platforms, screen resolutions, and devices seem to arrive on the scene every day. Realistically, you’ll never be able to keep up with all of it, so you’re going to need to make a compromise between having your website work well on the broadest array of devices possible, and what makes the most sense for your budget and target audience.
Remember that pixel-perfection on every device is not the goal. However, by looking at your website analytics to determine what devices people most commonly use to access your site, surveying your customers and enlisting the help of a professional web designer or developer, you can make an informed decision about how to best optimize your website for mobile.
Get Past the Jargon
Don’t worry – you don’t have to be tech-savvy to understand your options for making your website more mobile-friendly.
You essentially have two choices. The first is to have a web designer or developer build you a stand-alone mobile-optimized website (or websites as the case may be) that is completely separate from your existing website. The second is to have your site redesigned “responsively.” A “responsive design” simply means that you have one website that will automatically refactor itself to different layouts based on the width of the visitor’s browser.
Alternatively, if you use a content management system such as WordPress you may be able to install plugins that will make your website more mobile-friendly with a few simple button clicks. There are trade-offs though – most of your branding will likely be lost if you use a canned mobile plugin, and the plugin may not be able to accommodate certain aspects of your website such as an online store area.
There are pros and cons for each approach – once again, a qualified web professional can help you make the best decision for your business.
While it may be tempting to brush-off mobile as yet another thing to worry about, the reality is that your customers are already looking for you on their mobile devices. By making a small investment to get your website more mobile-friendly, you’ll be better equipped to meet your customers in those spaces, capture their attention, and convert that attention into a sale.