• Mobile-ize Your Website! May 6, 2011

    Mobile-ize Your Website!

    Earlier this year, Nielsen predicted that by the end of 2011 nearly one-half of all Americans would have smartphones. As people become increasingly comfortable using these devices, a larger percentage of their web searches will be done from their mobiles. So how will the use of mobile devices influence their choices of which websites to visit and return to?

    My personal experience in using my iPhone has been that I much prefer to use interfaces that are optimized for display on mobile phones. These includes websites that are optimized to fit your mobile phone -- sometimes called "web apps" --  and true "phone apps" -- the kind you download from an "app store." Sure, if I need information from a website that was designed for full desktop or laptop screens, I can scale it up or down and rotate it to fit my iPhone's screen, but doing so is just not very much fun.

    Optimizing a website for mobile is not just a matter of formatting the pages to fit a maximum width of about 320 pixels vs. the 950 pixels typical of desktop-optimized sites. Mobile-optimized websites also do a good job of anticipating the information needs of mobile customers. Usually this means giving careful thought to the kinds of information that people will want to retrieve when they are on the go, as well as the format in which it is displayed.

    These are crude generalizations, but the kinds of information and features that seem to work best in the mobile environment include:

    • Calendars and schedules
    • News summaries
    • Short articles
    • Directories
    • Maps
    • Product information
    • Advertising (ads seem to get a better response on mobiles)
    • Brief, easy-to-use forms
    • Brief video clips

    So when you consider "mobile-izing" your website, put yourself in the position of a smartphone-equipped member of your target audience: What kinds of information would he or she want to obtain while seated in a coffee shop, taking public transportation or waiting to meet a friend? The answer is probably a just a small subset of the total information available through your main website, and maybe some information that is not on your main website at all.

    The cost of mobile-izing your website is relatively modest -- especially if you go for a single web app that can display on most smartphones. And the payoff can be great. Because, if your customer finds your web app to be truly helpful and then saves it to his or her smartphone home page (which is really easy to do) then they no longer have to search for your website or remember to visit your website. They've got it right there all the time in their purse or pocket!