Mobile Optimized Website Tips

Surfing the internet on my phone is wonderful. And maddening. I love the freedom to access information anywhere, anytime. But, oooo, do I hate the horizontal scrolling that’s even more of an issue when you enlarge the screen enough so you don’t need a flipping magnifying glass to read it. And sites that take too long to download (due to large graphics or bells and whistles) don’t have a chance with me. I don’t think I’m alone, either.

So how does your site work on a mobile device? If the answer is “not so good,” or you’re just starting to think about this next step in the digital, on-the-go world, read on for a few tips.

Last year mobile web usage increased 148% worldwide, and this percentage is only going to grow since mobile users now outnumber PC users, 4 to 1. That’s all great—count me in—but as I just intimated….most websites work poorly on a mobile phone.

Down the road when I have my own site, I want it to be a good viewing experience for PC and mobile users, but I also want my main site to be more full-bodied with Flash, etc. I’ve learned that there a few different ways to have both, and all it takes is a Google search to find a variety of businesses that offer mobile optimized sites. Ok, you might be saying, but I don’t do my own website. I hire it out. If this is you, my question is: Are you having this mobi-optimized conversation with your designer?

Whether or not you even have a home site built, you can still design a mobi site. Here are a few things you might consider whether you design your site yourself, hire it out, or simply pay a business (see examples below) to use your existing home site to make your content mobile.

1. Properly sizing images. Large images may or may not display properly in mobile browsers and you can bet they really bog down a mobile site. Same goes for Java Script and Flash. Just leave it out.

2. Interactivity. This is a wonderful feature on your main site, but on your mobile site you’ll want to limit places where you require input from users (especially text entry).

3. Minimize scrolling and page transitions in order to reduce time spent looking for content.

4. Use fluid layouts. Avoid setting widths in pixels and use percentages or ems instead.

5. Rethink your navigation. What links are going to matter most to your mobile visitors? Mobile web surfing is known for its high bounce rates (users come to look at just one page), so focus on a few pages and acknowledge your visitors’ needs, such as your Contact link. On a lot of regular sites, this link it hidden at the bottom of the page. Consider making it front and center, or at least a lot more visible because many users will come looking for a way to email you.

6. Clearly point to the full site. Sometimes a visitor isn’t able to find what they’re looking for on the mobile version. In that case, put a link to your “full site” on every page.

Ok, there are obviously a lot more things to consider, but that should get your wheels chuggin. My plan is to design a full-bodied site and then plug in another, separate mobi site in a root folder in my main web. That will mean more maintenance (basically two separate sites), but that’s my skill level and therefore plan for now. There are options out there where you can integrate with your existing CMS. This means that once you post an update to your desktop site, it is automatically reflected on your mobile site.

Mobify (https://mobify.me/) is one such provider. Mobify detects incoming mobile devices and seamlessly redirects them to the mobile version of your site. That is so cool! The downside here is you need to know HTML coding, but if you hire out your web design you could discuss this with him or her.

Another option that doesn’t appear to require any coding experience is goMobi (http://getgomobi.com/). They host a mobile site for you at $7.95/month and you create it with their Setup Assistant which seems to be a template you can customize.

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing either of these options. I don’t know their whole story or exactly how they work. I’m just throwing them out there as a starting point to help you begin your research if you’re intrigued.

Ultimately, I think this is something everyone should start to think about. By the end of 2013, customers using the mobile web are projected to grow to 1 billion. Give them every opportunity to love your site and enjoy the experience. That’ll keep them coming back, and that’s the ultimate goal of having the site in the first place, right?

Penny for your thoughts? :)

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