I am one of those guys who has 5 screens in front of me while I’m at work. When it comes to reading and research though, I spend the majority of my time focused on one screen: my iPad. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to me to be redirected over and over again to a mobile site, or worse, arrive at a Flash based website [photography industry... I'm talking to YOU]. For browsing the internet, whether I am reading articles from Flipboard, or trying to find a decent car mechanic, I enjoy using my iPad more than any other web device. As it turns out, I am not alone.
Internet Users are Moving to Mobile
Many of the visitors to my websites are making their way over via mobile device. About 37% of my visitors to The Trot Line are using a mobile device. Of those visitors, around 82% of my mobile visitors to the site are iOS, followed by Android at 15.5%. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the internet is dramatically changing. 37% is a huge number to consider when developing a website. I don’t think that I could stress enough the fact that your website needs to be optimized for web traffic, now more than ever before. Just in case you still need some convincing, here are a few other reasons why you should consider optimizing your small business website for mobile.
“At Bing, we want to keep things simple by proposing the “one URL per content item” strategy.” Duane Forrester
Optimizing a Small Business Website for Mobile
I believe that the days of over the top websites are long gone, yet many people still hold onto their Flash movie intros and animations. Steve Jobs and the rise of the iPhone are due much thanks to leading us to the end of the ridiculous web, while ushering in the next stage of the internet; simple sites that work. As mentioned before, the photography industry is notorious for Flash based websites that blast music and play slideshows… They are also bulky, fit to only one specific set of screen dimensions, and will not open on an iOS device. One of the factors in choosing my wedding photographer (other than his excellent work) was the fact that I could actually see his work on the iPad, which I was using to find a photographer. His site was on page 1 of Google, but I skipped over a few other photographers in Atlanta before reaching his site [I searched for "Wedding photographer in Atlanta GA" from a metro Atlanta suburb]. I wonder how much more business he is going to win over direct from iOS users because he chose not to develop in Flash…
When developing your site, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that it’s mobile friendly:
- Do NOT develop a Flash website.
- Develop for speed, simplicity, and ease of use.
- Add your contact info towards the top of the fold, and make it click-able.
- Make it mobile responsive [more on this below]
Websites (especially for small business) need to be light, load quickly, and the user needs to be able to navigate the website with ease. For many visitors, they will just want your contact information (most likely, just your phone number) so it’s wise to place your number where the visitor can easily find it. I like for phone numbers to be large, and above the fold so that the visitor can touch the number and call the business without ever leaving the website.
Small Businesses Should Develop Mobile Responsive Sites
There. I said it. I’m taking a stand, and I’m sticking to it. Small businesses must develop mobile responsive sites from this point going forward. A mobile responsive website allows you to optimize one URL that is friendly to both desktop users and mobile users. The opposite would be to have a website that also has a separate mobile website that appears when it detects the visitor using a mobile device (iPad, Android, etc). That means that if you have a mobile responsive site and are trying to optimize for the mobile web, you only have to optimize one website. If you do the math, that means that you only need to pay for one website to be maintained and optimized opposed to two different sites.
If you choose to use two sites, mobile and desktop, you should consider the future of search. As mobile use continues to take down desktop browsing, Google and Bing have already begun pushing for a one website experience. Google’s Pierre Far announced on June 6, 2012 that Google recommends mobile responsive site design. Bing took it a step further by taking a stance on mobile responsive web design. Duane Forrester made a post in March of 2012, stating “At Bing, we want to keep things simple by proposing the “one URL per content item” strategy.”
Craig Charley puts it best in his recent post about responsive web design for business.
Especially for small and medium businesses, it’s not ideal to be building and maintaining two separate websites. You’re doubling both time and money spent on your web presence rather than creating great content!
Developing with a mobile responsive site makes it extremely easy to set up how you want your site to be viewed by the user. For this reason, it is easy for a user on an iPhone to pull up a small business using mobile responsive design and see the logo of the business show up first, followed by the phone number that is set up in the header as click-able text. Your website is no longer a static place holder, but something that can be genuinely interacted with to bring mutual benefit to you and your potential customer.
My advice to small businesses is to sit down and begin thinking about your mobile web design immediately. Consider the user experience, and the cost effectiveness of using mobile responsive design for your website along with other best practice digital marketing strategies. Early adopters will have the advantage of not having to worry about their mobile strategy two years from now when tablets and smart phones are used for search more than desktops. This leaves them the opportunity to focus on other digital marketing needs, such as content creation and link building.