Take a look around on any subway, in any airport, or even around the meeting table at work and you’re bound to find a number of individuals glued to their smartphones. As providers improve their networks and hardware giants continue to push out new devices, customers are browsing the web more from their smartphones and tablets rather than from traditional computers. While these devices sport full web browsers, it is becoming important for businesses to tailor this experience to their mobile users.
In late 2012, Google conducted an independent survey titled “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today.” Of the 1,088 smartphone users that were surveyed, about 67 percent indicated they would be more likely to purchase a product or service from a business that built a mobile-friendly website. Couple that with the fact that 61 percent of users also said they’d leave a site that’s not optimized for mobile and it’s clear that having a mobile-friendly site is more important than ever.
What Customers Want
While some businesses choose to create full-featured native applications, web technologies have advanced to the point where this may not be necessary. Responsive web design makes it easy for you to devote your development time to your website with a good presentation on mobile and no additional resources expended on mobile app development. Any further development could be costly so you must focus your efforts on what your customers want most.
While there are laundry lists of mobile feature requests, the ones appearing most often include speed, clarity, and access to contact information. Customers want to be on a website within a few seconds and once there, they want to see large buttons and clear, readable text. They also want to easily find contact information within just a few taps.
Why Customers Want Mobile-Friendly Websites
The development of your mobile site should be determined by the kinds of products and services your business provides. Since mobile devices sport relatively small screens and a different way of interacting with page content, simply shrinking your text into the device’s screen won’t give customers that warm and fuzzy feeling about your site.
Customers want to know if you’re open, how to contact you, and where to get more information about your products. It also helps if they can purchase your products without being asked to download an application or being redirected to a non mobile-friendly e-commerce site. You’re more likely to complete a sale if you empower your customer to do so on-the-go, perhaps right after seeing a relevant, engaging advertisement for your best product.
How to Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
There are quite a few easy ways to make your website mobile — many of which can cost relatively little. If your website is built on a publishing platform like WordPress, there are a few plugins available that will transform your site into a mobile-friendly version when viewed from a smartphone or tablet.
In addition to plugins, adding a responsive layer to your website can ensure that your single set of content looks good no matter what kind of device it is used on. Adding responsive design principles to your website will require a little tweaking by a professional designer, but it will remove the need for duplicate sets of content for each device type or platform.
If editing code or tasking someone to do so is not what you want, there are websites that will help you work through the process of either converting your website or deploying a quick mobile version based on pre-built templates.
Regardless of which method of mobile compatibility you choose, it’s important to test your site on a variety of browsers and devices. What may look great on an iPad could appear distorted on an iPhone or a phone with a larger display. There are a number of mobile device simulators available on the web to help you test your website across a variety of platforms. Given the growing trend of mobile browsing, your efforts to accommodate mobile devices will pay big dividends now and into the future.
Is your website mobile-friendly? If so, tell us what steps you took to get it that way.
John Burke: John is a technology and social media enthusiast (as well as a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy). Before joining the Sprout team, he wrote for TUAW, DownloadSquad and AppStorm. John has been working in social media strategy for a number of years and manages accounts for higher education, organizations and non-profits. A graduate of Syracuse University, John currently lives in New York City where he is pursuing a career in aviation. You can follow him on Twitter or add him on Google+.
I call B.S. on this.. why? Because I've sat and watched Yahoo single-handedly destroy flickr by trying to "adapt" everything on their site to offer the same "experience" from pc to tablet to phone. What happened? They've driven off a fair percentage of their core - willfully paying - users, including me. Microsoft? Windows 8? hahaha, yeah that was a big hit, huh? And now, Yahoo has angered all of their home-page and email users by doing the same thing to their main offering... what's happening? People are mad, leaving scathing responses all over FB and the likes, and ultimately - leaving... Granted, Yahoo has a history of buying popular franchises and destroying them like with MusicMatch back in the early 2000's, but this whole wave of developers trying to make everything look the same from the pc to the tablet to the phone is driving me insane. There's a reason I like to sit at my pc - has something to do with the two 27" LEDs I have connected to the GTX 760. If you want to make things look great on mobile devices, fine - though I could care less, I don't live the sad life of living from my phone or tablet - I much prefer human interaction when I'm out and about anyway. BUT LEAVE THE PC -based sites alone, and quit dumbing everything down for the pc interface. It really does matter.