Few small business owners would question the value of having a company website. But for customers, the web isn’t just about what they see when they’re in front of their computer screen. The Internet is increasingly being accessed through an array of devices, such as smart phones and tablets—and that means your business’s website needs to be mobile friendly, too.
In fact, a report published by Google in September 2012 revealed that 67 percent of the 1,088 smart phone users surveyed said they were more likely to buy a product or use a service when visiting a business’s mobile-friendly site. What’s also interesting to note is that an equally large group—61 percent—said if they don’t quickly find what they’re looking for on a mobile site, they’ll move on. (It’s a safe bet that means they’re going over to your competitors.) And even if someone likes a business, 50 percent of those surveyed said they will shop at a business less often if the website isn’t mobile friendly.
The dilemma, says James Sherrett, vice president of marketing for Mobify, a mobile commerce technology company based in Vancouver, Canada, is that most small business websites are still designed with a desktop or laptop computer in mind, even as a growing portion of their web traffic is likely to come via mobile devices. The result is that customers wind up zooming, squinting, and pinching their mobile screens to access the information they’re looking for.
“Mobile screens are smaller and many are touch screens,” he says. “That creates a much different user experience than when a customer is coming to your website from the computer on their desk.” To make sure your website is mobile friendly, here are some of the factors that Sherrett and other experts say to consider:
Keep your audience in mind
Understanding what your customers want when they visit your site while using a mobile device is step one in creating something useful and easy to navigate, says Tim Murphy, senior marketing manager at Keynote Systems, an Internet and mobile cloud testing and monitoring company. “If you run a retail store, chances are your customers aren’t really interested in seeing your blog on the first page,” he says. “More likely they want your address, hours of operation, and a navigation button that gives them the ability to call you.” If there’s too much stuff to get through or if it’s taking 30 seconds or more for your site to load, the customer will be gone, he adds.
If you’re not sure what information these potential customers value most, Sherrett recommends accessing Google analytics to see what mobile visitors to your website are actually searching for. “You can then use that information as a good guide when creating a mobile friendly site,” he adds.
Yes, your mobile site should be streamlined and clean, but that doesn’t mean it should look radically different from what folks see when they’re using a desktop or laptop computer. “It’s important for your mobile site to have the same colors and design of your website,” says Nicole Dansereau, director of sales and corporate marketing for Strategic Edge, a marketing firm that specializes in the medical profession. That might mean having fewer photographs and less text, but the overall feel and look should still echo what customers see when they access your website from their computer. If you hired a designer to create your business’s original website (and are happy with the results) there’s no reason why that same person can’t design your mobile site as well, Dansereau says.
Consider responsive design
Ever wonder why when you visit Starbucks or Disney from your mobile device the sites look just as good as when you’re on your computer? The answer is responsive design—a method by which you can create one design that will adapt to any device a customer chooses to use. So for instance, says Sherrett, when a customer uses a responsively designed website, the site knows the constraints of the user’s device and automatically reconfigures and reorganizes the layout and navigation features for easier viewing.
However, there are some drawbacks to consider before making the switch, he cautions. While responsive design will enable your site to look good no matter what the device, you will have to rebuild the template for your original website to accommodate responsive design, and that can cost time and money. If you simply choose to create a mobile-specific website, you won’t need to do anything to your original website, but understand that your search rankings will be split between your regular website and your mobile site. Even so, most experts suggest that responsive design is the smarter choice.
Of course, if you do go ahead and create a mobile site it’s important to test it out to make sure it, in fact, does look good and function well on a variety of devices. Keynote Systems offers a free testing tool that allows you to see just what your customers experience when they access your site from a smart phone or tablet.
“For small businesses, the name of the game is being discovered,” says Keynote’s Murphy. “If a customer is doing a search and your name comes up, you want to be sure that when they come to your site they’re able to find exactly what they’re looking for.”