Do you have a mobile-friendly website yet? Chances are you don’t, and you’re not alone. Businesses around the world are scrambling to establish a mobile web presence before consumer use is pervasive. There is still time, but it is running out quickly.
What exactly is the mobile web? In essence, it is a collection of mobile-friendly Internet sites that are accessible via mobile devices. Along with mobile websites, the mobile web includes mobile search engines, mobile advertising, and pay-per-click ads displayed only on mobile devices. It is a complete and distinct ecosystem for mobile devices.
Why Build a Mobile Website?
According to a study by iCrossing (April 2007), 84% of mobile searchers expect websites that they frequently visit to provide a dedicated mobile site. A January 2008 report released by M:Metrics showed that only 13.1% of US cell phone users with basic feature phones accessed news or other information via a mobile browser. However, for smartphone users (Blackberry, Treo, etc.) that number climbed to 58.2% and soared to 84.8% for iPhone owners.
Clearly, the easier the mobile web experience is for users, the more they will use it. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security though. The answer to your mobile site dilemma is not simply waiting for more people to get phone upgrades.
The primary reason why 84% of those searching the mobile web want you to have a dedicated mobile site? Mobile web use is entirely different from desktop web use. People using the mobile web are not sitting in the quiet comfort of their home or office using full-sized monitors and keyboards on which their fingers actually fit. Mobile web users are likely in a noisy public place looking at a two-inch monitor and using a tiny keyboard – or worse, the number pad on their cell phone – to navigate. Mobile web users are not browsing, they are finding. It is your job to provide them with what they are seeking. Make no mistake about it – creating a satisfying customer experience is the foundation of the mobile web.
Many businesses, and even some mobile industry professionals, think that simply ensuring full-sized websites are stripped down of graphics and formatted into a single column for easier viewing on a mobile device is enough to create a satisfying mobile web experience. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough.
There is much more to the mobile web than making your existing website tiny. You must define your mobile website around your customers’ needs. What do customers need from your business when they are mobile? Answering this question correctly and building your mobile site around the answers will be the biggest factor in your success.
Mobile Web Content Ideas
It is no big surprise that maps and/or directions are the top item that people seek using mobile search. Additionally, your customers want other specific things from you on your mobile website, and they may want more and more over time. To get you started, here are some ideas of items to include on your mobile website. Of course, you may also have other content that makes sense for your particular business or industry.
- Maps/directions to your business
- Business hours
- Click-to-call button
- List of items/brands you carry (your menu)
- Fresh content in small chunks
- Timely information about your business
- Special offers
- Event information
Equally as important as what to include on your mobile site is what not to include. People are very quick to move off a site that is not loading fast enough or if they cannot find what they are looking for because unneeded information is getting in the way. Here are some things to avoid:
- Excessive graphics (size or quantity)
- Long articles that will fill more than three screens
- Anything that takes more than three clicks to find
- Large files/downloads that could cause a mobile device to crash or freeze
Three Approaches to Building a Mobile Website
Once you have committed to building a mobile site and determined what content to provide to your visitors, the next hurdle is actually building a site that works on the 5,000 different handsets, dozens of operating systems, and multitude of browsers that are in the hands of the billions of consumers. With this many variables, it is obvious that one size does not fit all. And, unlike desktop website building – which has become so easy that just about anyone can have a personal website or blog up and functioning in minutes – mobile site building is not so easy. Search engine optimization is also needed – Bryson deals with that in his article (pages 39-41).
The first decision is to choose from among the three different ways of building a site:
1. Build from Scratch
Unless you are a code-from-hand web designer or have an in-house design team, you will need to hire a person or firm to build your mobile site. Even if you have significant web design expertise, you will need to access resources to help with the specifics of mobile design.
An excellent first stop is www.dev.mobi, a site for web designers who want to learn about mobile design. The information on this site will keep your designer on the right track while providing tools and information. Another useful resource is Mobile Web Design by Cameron Moll (www.mobilewebbook.com), a book with tons of tips and techniques for designing for mobile. If you are hiring from outside your firm, FlingMedia.com and LittleSpringsDesign.com are two good choices to consider investigating.
2. Use a Mobile Platform
Companies such as iLoopMobile.com, GoLiveMobile.com, and CrispWireless.com offer complete A-to-Z solutions for mobile site building, advertising, text messaging, marketing, and reporting. Access to the kind of comprehensive software these companies offer does come with a significant price tag – expect to spend between $10,000 and $50,000 for a mobile site using this solution.
If you have the budget to work with such companies, without a doubt this is the way to go. You will have content management at your fingertips, easy software to work with, and all the tools your heart could desire.
3. Choose a Do-It-Yourself Mobile Builder
If you cannot use either of the previously mentioned options because of budgetary constraints or other reasons, the third option is a mobile site builder. The good news is that there are several free or low-cost site builders available. The down side is that you will likely invest a decent amount of sweat equity in getting it done. As well, your site may not be as fully functional or as pleasant to look at as sites done on a mobile platform or built by a designer.
But at least you will be on mobile with a site that is built specifically for mobile use, and you won’t have spent a fortune getting there. You can test out what works, find out what your customers want more of, and get your customers to try mobile marketing. As pricing drops on the other options, you can always upgrade into those solutions.
There are number of DIY mobile site builders available – two good ones to look at are WinkSite.com and MoFuse.com.
Whether or not you personally use the mobile web, if you have a business-related website, it is time to dive in and develop a mobile site. Over 3 billion people in the world have mobile phones, with that number expected to reach 4 billion by 2010. Compare this number with only 850 million personal computer users worldwide and it becomes obvious that the mobile web demands attention. Start with your customers’ needs in mind, build a solid strategy, and get started.