You don’t have to look far to see the web is going mobile. In fact, many predict within two years, more people will access the internet through a mobile device than a desktop or laptop computer.
If one of your potential, or current, customers typed your web address into their smartphone or tablet, do you know how your site would appear? It surprises me how many people say no when asked this question.
There are many tools you can use to test the mobile web compatibility of your site. Google recently unveiled one – www.howtogomo.com/au – which I think is a great way to see how your site looks on a mobile device.
Taken the test and the results are not good? Here is my advice on creating the perfect mobile website.
Remember, the audiences are different
The first step to making your website mobile is to understand the people who will be viewing the site and why they are different to those who view it from a desktop computer.
Those viewing a mobile website are usually on the go. They are sitting on the bus or rushing to a meeting. It is fair to say they are not on your website to browse and leisurely read your testimonials. They need their information quickly and easily and it needs to be right there when they log on to your site.
Establish what people on the go need most from your site and make it the first thing they see when they log on. If you are a restaurant, it’s probably an address or phone number, a courier may need an order tracking service while an insurer might need information on making a claim.
Consider two websites
If you absolutely love your current website and don’t want to change it, then don’t!
Consider designing a separate site for those viewing it from a mobile device. We have already determined that people using a mobile are not after the same information as those viewing a site from their desktop. Therefore, your mobile website does not have to be the same as your other website.
There are ways of detecting if a user is mobile or not. Build your site so it detects where the user is accessing your site from and then directs them to the right site.
Designing your mobile site
Following are my tips for designing a website for optimal viewing on a mobile device:
1. Don’t forget the page is smaller
When designing for mobile device screens, remember the screen is much smaller than that of a laptop. It is something you must consider when designing the site.
To make the site as user-friendly as possible, I recommend designing mobile websites in a one-column layout to avoid unnecessary scrolling. While it may be hard to avoid vertical scrolling, designing on a one-column style will limit horizontal scrolling for the user.
It is also a good idea to increase the size of all navigation links and other buttons. Even those of us with small fingers find some buttons impossible to press on a mobile phone! If it is an important link, consider making it the width of the screen itself.
2. Consider download times
Compress all images to ensure they are small enough to download quickly. Customers may get annoyed waiting for pages to load. Also, you need to be mindful of those users who pay extra for data downloads so only use images that you really need
3. Take advantage of the phone’s functions
When designing a site for the mobile user, remember to take advantage of the phone’s built-in features. Make phone numbers clickable to place a call, link your address to the phone’s GPS unit and take advantage of features such as QR codes.
4. Cut the content
Keep a mobile site simple by minimising content on the screen. You only need half the copy you would have on a normal website. Consider removing copy and links that are not within the main content area – including headers, footers and sidebars. This will also help to reduce the page size and load time.
Never build a website and simply assume it will be compatible on a mobile device. Test your current site’s compatibility and, if it does not look perfect, then design yourself mobile web-friendly site. With a predicted 1.7 billion mobile Internet users by 2013, can you afford to wait?