Consumers are on the move and staying increasingly connected to the Internet while they are mobile by accessing web content and information on their smartphones. Want these savvy movers and shakers to access your info, too? Then you’ll need a mobile website.
According to Nielsen, just over half of cell phone users in the US – 50.4%, to be exact – had a smartphone of some kind, making dumbphones the minority for the first time. And since 93% of smartphone users use their iPhone, Android or Blackberry to access content and information, according to a study by the Online Publishers Association, it makes sense to get your mobile website in place sooner rather than later.
Mobile Website or App?
When you’re planning to establish a mobile presence for your business, it is important to consider whether to create a mobile application (app) or a mobile website. Mobile websites and apps can appear similar at first, as both are accessed on handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets. Here are the main differences:
A mobile website is similar to any other website in that it consists of browser-based HTML web pages that are linked together and accessed over the Internet (for mobile typically WiFi or 3G or 4G networks). Like any website, mobile websites can display text content, data, images and video. They can also access mobile-specific features such as click-to-call (to dial a phone number) or location-based features like maps.
Apps, on the other hand, are actual software applications that are downloaded and installed on your mobile device. Users visit device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store, Google Play, or Blackberry App World in order to find and download apps for their given operating system.
Whether to develop a mobile website or app will depend upon a number of factors, including target audiences, available budget, intended purpose and required features. For marketing purposes, a mobile website is the best first step because of its cost effectiveness and compatibility across any mobile web browser.
Design for the small screen
The obvious characteristic that distinguishes a mobile website from a standard website is the fact that it is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface. A mobile website often uses the same content as the main website only with a different layout optimized for the mobile screen. This is best practice since any website updates to the main site will also appear on the mobile site.
When optimizing your website for mobile devices, you want to take into account smaller screen sizes and slower bandwidths. This means using smaller images and font sizes, thinking about how much content is displayed on a single page.
Also consider that the audience of your mobile website is, well, mobile!
Unlike viewers of your main website, who sit at a desktop computer and browse patiently through several pages admiring the use of colors and fancy graphics, mobile visitors are on the go. They visit your mobile website to get the immediate information they need; therefore, it’s best to limit the content on your mobile site to only what might be immediately useful to a visitor on the move. For example, a shopper may want more information about a product while they’re looking at it in the store aisle, but they may not be so interested at that moment in the manufacturer’s mission statement.
Since your mobile website is simply your existing website content reformatted for the handheld screen, it can be indexed by search engines and listed in industry-specific directories, making it easy for qualified visitors to find. Mobile marketing can also make use of the camera on most smartphones by offering a QR code for viewers to scan and be sent directly to your mobile site.
Most importantly, visitors to your regular website can be automatically redirected to your mobile site when they are on their handheld or tablet using device-detection programming or a responsive web design. The meta viewport tag tells a mobile device how to orient a page when the viewer turns their smartphone vertically or horizontally and if a page can be scaled larger or smaller. Be friendly to your mobile users by including this on your site.
Do you have Apple icons?
The iPhone and iPad both allow users to add a quick link to the desktop of their device for easy access. Don’t let a hard-to-see screenshot (which is the default option) rob you of an excellent branding opportunity! Create your own icon using your company logo.
Consumers are on the go and are taking the Internet with them. By using these best practices for building your mobile website, you’ll be prepared to reach them when and where they’re ready.