REQUIRED READING: It is estimated that 90% of companies are either entirely ignoring or at least woefully lacking in mobile device support for their websites. This is a massive percentage when you consider how popular mobile Web surfing has become – by 2013, it is estimated that almost half of all Web searches will be done via mobile devices.
This begs the question: Can your corporate website accommodate mobile Web surfers? If not, there are a few things you should consider if you want to get when updating your website.
Compatibility: In November 2011, Adobe announced the discontinuation of Flash for mobile devices. This decision stems from complaints about the software's interchangeability between different mobile devices. Also, the late Steve Jobs, in his capacity as CEO of Apple, refused to deploy Flash on iPads and iPhones, thus creating an anti-Flash movement among mobile users.Â
Jobs was a longtime opponent of Flash and he felt that Flash drains mobile device batteries far too quickly while slowing the device's performance. Since end users cannot typically tell that Flash is the culprit, the blame fell to the devices. As a result, HTML5 and JQuery have become standard technologies on all Apple products – and with the recent demise of Flash mobile, they have become the universal software solution/platform for mobile devices.
That being said, a company needs to be certain that its website is running standard HTML with JQuery and not with the outdated Adobe Flash software – otherwise, there is no way to ensure all users can access the website from a mobile device.
Navigation: It is crucial to make sure that the website is easy to navigate. After all, the way a user navigates a site on a computer may be very different than from how one navigates on a the smaller and touch-operated phone screen.
In this new environment, ‘mouse-overs’ do not exist in the mobile world, and Flash-based navigational menus will not work. The website willneed to be simplified from desktop-centric formats to a more mobile-friendly format. Often, this means building a specifically cut-down, mobile version where the website's auto-sense can determine whether a desktop or a mobile client is visiting, so that the site can serve up the appropriate version.Â
This is not a trivial undertaking, by any stretch, but some websites are seeing upwards of four times as many mobile users as desktop users these days.
Content: There is nothing worse than accessing a mobile site and finding a massive amount of content that requires endless finger-scrolling – which, of course, is not an optimal way to get information.
After you have finished creating your content, go on your mobile site, and read through the content. If you become annoyed by the amount of reading required on the small format screen, then chances are there is still too much content. Sometimes, this can be easily fixed – think about using bullet points instead of bulky paragraphs – but in some cases, this may require a very new approach to how you present your data online.
Speed: This point overlaps with the previous considerations, but it must be stressed: speed is essential! Not only do your customers want an easy-to-use site that is content-friendly and works with their devices, but they also want the site to work as fast as possible and use as little bandwidth as possible.Â
Remember that mobile users are connected over cellular networks that can often be slow, and these users usually pay for bandwidth. Plus, more often than not, they are on the go and are looking up something because they want an immediate answer. They expect a fast and responsive website.Â
Landing Page: The landing page – also known as the home page – is the lifeblood of your Internet presence. Similar to computer-based sites, the landing page of your mobile site is the user's first impression of your brand. If your landing page is slow, hard to navigate, or full of unnecessary content, or if it just flat out doesn't work with your user's mobile device, then chances are you lost the user at ‘hello.’
Mobile-friendly or mobile version?: Here is a question: What really constitutes mobile? After all, many mobile devices can load a website within a browser window, albeit shrunken down to the extreme.
Thus, it may be acceptable to merely make a few tweaks to a website in order to allow it to function normally on mobile (remove Flash, fix mouse-overs, etc.) while operating it as a single, ‘normal’ site that's merely ‘mobile friendly.’ But in some cases, even that still isn't good enough. However, this must be considered on a case-by-case basis, and it is largely a business decision that must factor in cost-versus-value tradeoffs that determine the depth and scope of your company's online presence.
Eric Robichaud is CEO of 401 Consulting, based in Woonsocket, R.I. He can be reached at email@example.com.