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Taking Your Website With You: Considerations for Mobile Website Design

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If your business is lucky enough to thrive for several years, you will undoubtedly have to come to grips with the fact that, as the web changes, your website will inevitably have to respond to these changes. One of the biggest changes to take place over the last 18 months is the increasing importance of accessing the internet through mobile devices. The long term reality is that all businesses will one day need to make sure their website looks good on the web and, in the short term, there are certainly some businesses that should settle for nothing less than a good mobile site now.

What Sorts of Businesses Need a Good Mobile Site Now?

Basically, if your website is such that your customers are likely to access critical information or buy from you while they are on-the-go, your business should consider a website which is designed for the mobile internet. Generally, direct-to-consumer businesses are more likely candidates to have a mobile presence designed, but that rule is not hard and fast. Some typical businesses that really should have well designed mobile sites include:

  • Restaurants, whose customers often choose where to eat while they’re walking or driving through an area.
  • Museums, whose visitors often include travellers whose only access to the web will be through a mobile device.
  • Realtors, whose potential clients will often check out properties for sale in a given area as they drive or walk around neighborhoods.

Why Won’t My Current Site Work as a Mobile Website?

The answer to this question is that it might. Some existing websites, as they were originally designed, will be readable on some of the more modern mobile devices. However, nearly all websites originally designed to be viewed from a PC are likely to suffer considerable compromise, when viewed through a smartphone such as an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry. For instance:

  • Many websites designed to be viewed from a desktop feature moving animation or elements designed with Adobe Flash. Flash, historically, is not well supported on mobile devices and, minimally, websites repurposed for the web will need to have these elements converted to image content which has universal mobile support.
  • Drop down navigation elements might be too closely spaced or not function within a mobile environment. If you’ve ever had the experience of navigating a site from an iPhone or Droid, you’ve probably visited sites where the menu elements were so closely spaced that you couldn’t easily click on hyperlinks. The problems can sometimes be so debilitating that the site is virtually unusable.
  • Sites that are image intensive or filled with long, scrolling pages of text will annoy mobile users. Besides the difficulty of navigating on a mobile device, all users of smartphones are paying for bandwidth. Asking them to peruse a bandwidth-hogging site which was not designed for a mobile experience is off-putting, will slow down their experience and increase the likelihood that they will just leave your site.

The best way to determine whether your site needs reworking or redesigning for mobile devices is to test it on several. Given the dominance of Android, iPhone and Blackberry, those are the three platforms you might want to evaluate from initially. In all likelihood, if you’re serious about having your website look and feel good on mobile platforms and the site wasn’t originally designed for those, you’re going to find some things about it that will need some changing. That’s where we come in. Options for improving your site’s performance range from gentle modifications to your existing site to a complete “mirror site” which would be an alter ego for your business on the mobile web. Where you fall in that very broad spectrum, obviously, will depend on both your needs and your budget. (Probably both!)

At any rate, if your website isn’t passing the smartphone test, give us a call and we can fix you up!


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