A guest blog post by Lukas Pleva.
Business owners should care about data, so let’s start with a few eye-opening statistics to show why mobile websites matter.
According to a Localeze study conducted in December 2011, 61% of smartphone users search for local information on the go. A total of 52% of local search clicks result in calls, and between January 2011 and January 2012, mobile access to the Internet doubled. That’s a lot of people using their phones to search for local businesses!
Despite the increasing use in mobiles, however, “93.3% of SMB websites are not mobile-compatible and will not render successfully on mobile devices or smartphones,” according to an analysis conducted by the smart folks over at BIA/Kelsey.
Think about that for a second. More than 6 out of 10 smartphone users rely on their phones to find local information, but yet less than 7% of small-business websites are optimized for mobile viewing. What a waste of an opportunity!
Let’s talk about some ways to fix that.
How Does a Mobile Website Differ From a Desktop Website?
First, let's define a mobile website. A mobile-friendly website is your regular website (as viewed through a normal browser like Firefox or Google Chrome) but adapted for mobile viewing.
Why is it adapted? It's because the mobile viewing experience is radically different from a PC or laptop experience. When you use a mobile, the screen is significantly smaller, you’re likely on a slower Internet connection, you don’t get a full keyboard. And you’re probably on the go and don’t have much time.
Adapting the desktop website into a mobile one means using fewer graphics, providing less text, and incorporating features native to smartphones, such as click-to-call buttons.
Let’s use Pizza Hut's site as an example. What follows is a screenshot of the Pizza Hut website as viewed through Mozilla Firefox.
Below is what the same site looks when viewed through a smartphone.
The difference is clear. The mobile-friendly website has only the bare essentials---precisely what someone using a phone wants!
Now, let’s take a look at a small business website (in this case, a restaurant in Chicago) that is not optimized for mobile viewing.
Unlike Pizza Hut’s, this website has superfluous graphics and too much text. To click on any link, the user will most likely have to use the phone’s zoom-in feature. That doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, but when time is scarce, those extra 10 seconds add up.
Now that you know the difference, think about your own website.
How Does Your Site Rate as a Mobile Website?
Google provides a free tool to check how your website looks when viewed through a mobile browser. Just enter the URL and wait a few seconds while Google does its magic.
Once the tool finishes working, you’ll be presented with your website along with a three-point questionnaire to evaluate whether your website is mobile-friendly.
Do you see broken images or missing content?
Can you see the text without zooming or scrolling?
Can the links and buttons be clicked with a thumb?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no” (and be honest---this is your business we’re talking about), you need to think about a redesign.
If you have Google Analytics (or a comparable analytics package) installed, you can also check what percentage of your visitors are viewing your site using a mobile phone. For the website below (a small business in Florida), between March 23 and April 24, roughly 12% of the traffic was mobile. That may not sound like a lot right now, but almost every forecast predicts that this number will grow rapidly over the next several years.
How to Create a Mobile Website
Here are a few ways to create a mobile website.
1. Custom web development. Though that's the most expensive option, you get full control over the website’s look and feel. Just ask your existing web developer (or hire a new one) whether he can design and deploy a mobile-friendly website on your behalf. You won’t have to worry about any of the technical stuff, and assuming your web developer knows what he’s doing, you’ll end up with a snazzy website.
2. External publishing platform. This is my preferred option, especially when on a budget. A few companies offer so-called What You See Is What You Get (often abbreviated WYSIWYG) editors specifically for mobile websites. Think of it as drag and drop (i.e., no coding required). You pick which elements you want (e.g., click-to-call buttons) and where you want them, and the platform takes care of the rest, usually for a very nominal fee. I’ve used dudamobile with great success; it’s super-cheap and features a free option (but you have to not mind advertising). You can also use other options, such as mofuse.
3. Plug-ins. If you have a Wordpress-based website, free and premium plug-ins can automatically display a mobile-friendly version of your website when someone tries to access it through their smartphone. For my personal blog, I use the free WPtouch, and it works just fine for my purposes. In my experience, these plug-ins work best if your site is primarily a blog. For small businesses, my recommendation would be to go with an external platform (option two) or to hire a web developer if you have the budget.
According to projections by BIA/Kelsey, by 2015, there will be more local searches coming from smartphones than PCs in the United States. Already, 22% of small businesses report that they plan to increase the amount of money they invest in mobile marketing.
Is your business website mobile-friendly? Did you hire a developer, or did you opt for a less expensive WYSIWYG, do-it-yourself platform? Share your experience in the comments below!
Lukas Pleva is in charge of marketing efforts for St. Pete Bagel Co.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Business Woman)
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