Does it frustrate you when you try to visit a website on your mobile phone only to discover that it loads really slowly and when it does finally load you struggle to use the site?
You’re not alone.
According to a Compuware study, 71% of surveyed global mobile surfers expect websites to load just as quickly or faster on their phones compared with their home PCs, however, almost half of all the people surveyed said websites load more slowly on their mobile phones.
So this begs the questions, is your website mobile friendly and does your website convert mobile visitors into customers as well as your desktop site?
Before I explore these two questions let’s look at why mobile matters.
Why Mobile Matters
The mobile revolution is already here. Smartphones already outsell PCs and many are now more powerful than the average home computer. Getting online via mobile is also much easier; the web is gradually becoming faster with 4G networks being rolled out across the UK.
Your Customers Are Connected
Nowadays people are almost always connected to the web; the average person looks at their phone 150 times per day. It’s a sad fact that some people are joined at the hip to their mobile phone and for many the phone is almost within arm’s reach 24/7, some people even sleep with their phones! (See Infographic)
Mobile searches have grown four fold since 2010 and this year more people are expected to use mobile phones then PCs to get online. A 2011 study by the Office of National Statistics revealed that 45% of UK internet users used a mobile phone to connect to the web.
It’s estimated that by 2015 there will be one mobile device for every person on the planet and according to the CEO of Ericsson Hans Vestberg, there are 3 times as many smartphones being activated every minute around the world than there are babies being born. 
Additionally mobile users are connecting locally with businesses much more frequently via smartphones and they’re even more likely to take action as a result of looking for local information.
In a Google study, 95% of surveyed users looked for local information using a smartphone. 77% of these users searched for local information and contacted a business either through visiting a store (59%) or calling (61%) and from the same survey a whopping 44% actually made a purchase either online or through a store.
Your Customers Expect Mobile
Your customers are already using smart phones as a main method of accessing information on the web, they also want their mobile experience to be as good as their desktop experience, but did you know that a bad mobile experience can actually end up costing you more business than you probably realise.
- 57% would not recommend a business with a bad mobile site –Would you recommend your website to someone if you knew they were going to visit it via a mobile phone?
- 40% have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience – it takes just seconds to click the back button on a mobile and then move onto the next website on the search engine rankings until your visitor finds a mobile friendly website.
- 23% will retry a site two times or less if it does not load initially  – If your site loads slowly your visitor is unlikely to persevere and will likely give up very quickly.
What Does a Mobile Friendly Website Look Like?
Mobile devices are naturally much smaller so a mobile friendly site has to be designed for a smaller screen. Google has outlined ‘10 Mobile Site Best Practices’ that tell us how you can turn any website into a great mobile experience.
- Keep it Quick – Does your website load fast? –Your mobile visitors probably don’t have a lot of time on their hands so your website should load fast and prioritise content and features that mobile users need most. – 15 Tips to Speed Up Your Website
- Easy Navigation – No one likes confusing website navigation, make it easy for your website visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- Improve Readability – There’s no excuses here, your mobile website should be easy to read. I recently wrote an article on website readability you can read it here: ‘Improve Your Website Readability Now’
- Accessibility is Important – Your website should be easily accessible across all mobile handsets and devices. Avoid flash as it’s unsupported on some devices meaning that some of your customers could lose out on valuable information.
- Is Thumb Friendly – Nowadays most smartphones have touch screens so your site should be designed with fingers and large hands in mind. There’s nothing more frustrating that clicking the wrong link.
- Easy to Convert – Every business website has an objective, to convert visitors into customers. You need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to buy, enter their details or contact you; they also need to be able to do this with a mobile keyboard.
- Local Websites Win – The facts are clear, customers search for local information using mobile phones – from finding an open restaurant to locating the nearest petrol station. Your website should let people find you easily.
- Make Your Website Seamless – People use multiple screens throughout the day, have you ever used your phone and PC at the same time? Or maybe an iPad while watching the TV, your desktop and mobile site should provide a seamless experience and should aim to provide the same website functionality no matter what the device.
- Use Mobile Redirection – If you have a separate mobile website you should use an automatic redirect to send mobile visitors to the mobile-friendly version on your website.
- Listen, Learn and Iterate – Ask your existing customer what they want from your mobile website and make testing and optimising an on-going process.
Is Your Website A Mobile Mess? – How to Check
So what does your site look like via a mobile device?
There’s an easy way to find out using this handy testing tool that allows you to check what your website looks like via a smartphone or tablet – http://quirktools.com/screenfly/
You can also use the tools available on GoMo a Google Lead Initiative – http://www.howtogomo.com/en-gb/d/test-your-site/#getmo-meter
Types of Mobile Friendly Websites
There are two different ways users can access mobile content, either through a browser or by downloading an app. Depending on your website objectives, size and revenue you may want to pick more than one.
- Mobile Browser Access – a responsive website, a dedicated mobile site or a web app.
- Mobile Downloadable Application – A custom built native application.
Let’s explore the four different types of mobile options above, each one has pros and cons that you should know about.
1. Responsive Website Design
A responsive web design is a single URL strategy and is a website that works well on every device. By using media queries to work out the device resolution, fluid grids then automatically correct the size of the website to fit the screen. The website you are on right now uses a customised ‘Responsive WordPress Theme’, if you’re currently on a PC try resizing your browser then you’ll see that the content automatically adjusts.
- A responsive design is cheap, easy to maintain and user friendly
- A straightforward single website solution, a URL strategy and no multiple website issues to contend with such as redirects etc.
- Since there’s only one website there are no duplicate content issues
- Site transforms to display the correct dimensions based on the device size
- If you already have a website it can take time to build and develop a responsive design.
- Responsive websites can load slower as mobile users are forced to download unnecessary HTML and CSS.
- Mobile and Desktop Users use different search engine queries so adjusting webpage titles, descriptions and keywords will prove difficult.
One URL To Rule Them All For Mobile SEO
Separate Mobile Website Vs. Responsive Website
Why We Shouldn’t Make Separate Mobile Websites
The top responsive web design problems … and how to avoid them!
Ultimate Guide to Responsive Web Design: 55 Stunning Tools, Tutorials, and Examples
2. Dedicated Mobile Website
A dedicated mobile website does exactly what it says on the tin. You can either use a subdomain of your existing website or use a completely new domain to host separate mobile content. So why would anyone create a separate mobile website when they could just build a responsive website?
Well the answer is simple, the main advantage is being able to control and design a website that is perfect for the mobile experience.
- Faster Load Times – Mobile websites generally load much faster as they’re designed purely with the mobile experience in mind.
- Optimised For Mobile – a mobile website provides a purpose built experience generally providing the most relevant information for mobile users. Many dedicated mobile websites provide users with the bare essentials, a good example of this would be a restaurant which provides details of the menu, phone number, address and map.
- Easy to Build – If you already have an existing website it could take a while to build or integrate a responsive design or build a mobile app. A dedicated mobile website can be built fairly quickly and there are a number of free tools that can get you started.
- Maintenance – Your mobile website most likely will have different content from your desktop site so any changes need to be reflected on both costing you time and money. There are ways to combat this problem depending on what CMS you are using; however, you should give this point some serious consideration.
- User-agent Detection – is the software that detects if you are using a mobile device to connect to a website, the software that redirects you to the suitable website? With so many mobile devices being released you need to keep an up-to-date user agent list which can cost time and money.
- Poor Redirection – Have you ever been on a mobile website then you click on a link and it takes you to an unreadable desktop version with tiny text? Well this is probably down to poorly managed redirection.
7 Tips to Create The Mobile Version of a Website
Mobile Versions of Websites – Pros and Cons
Mobile Device Detection
3. Native Mobile App
A mobile app is effectively a software program for your mobile device. Mobile apps are generally downloaded from app stores such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Apps can take advantage of all of the processing power and technological wizardry that’s built into your device such as GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and cameras. Native applications are most suited for websites that would require access on a regular basis such as banks, social networks, news sites etc.
- Access – Native apps can take advantage of a device’s local storage making content available when the user is offline. This can be especially handy, for example if a user chooses to mark an article for reading later.
- Functionality – takes advantage of features such as camera, GPS, e.g. to help direct you to your nearest ATM.
- Speed – Native Apps are much faster than both Responsive website and Dedicated Mobile Websites as they are software specific and harness both the connectivity and processing power of an individual device.
- Monetise – You can earn money by charging your users money for downloading your native app, accessing content within the app or even through a regular subscription.
- Testing – can be difficult because of the sheer variety of mobile devices.
- Development Cost – can be very costly as each app needs to be designed, custom developed then submitted to the apps marketplace whether that be an Android app or iOS app.
- Updates – As new operating systems update a native app needs to be upgraded to remain device supported. If you choose to build a native app remember to factor in maintenance costs.
- Longevity – apps can easily be deleted especially if they aren’t being used. It’s important to consider this before spending time and energy in developing an app, think about and communicate with your target audience before taking the plunge.
Mobile Sites vs Mobile Apps – The Pros and Cons
Mobile applications: native v Web apps – what are the pros and cons?
Designing a Mobile App? Don’t Make These 10 Mistakes
6 Tools to Build a Mobile App on the Cheap
4. Browser Web App
Web apps run within your mobile browser and don’t need to be downloaded to a device thus avoiding ‘app store’ policies and terms and conditions.
- Updates – Your user won’t need to worry about updates as a browser web app automatically reloads on each visit.
- Privacy – Many mobile users are sceptical about downloading software onto their device and naturally prefer using a browser. By creating a web app you can deliver a great app experience without downloadable software. A great example is the Financial Times website which uses an HTML5 Web App for mobile devices.
- Functionality – Currently due to privacy concerns web apps are unable to take advantage of a mobile camera and other built in device functions.
- Reliability – Web apps are also hard to test just like native apps they rely on the device and browsers capability to work.
Making It a Mobile Web App
HTML5-Powered Web Applications: 19 Early Adopters
Financial Times passes 2m users for its HTML5 web app
Why Web Apps Will Crush Native Apps
5 Ways to Improve Your Mobile Website
Now that we’ve looked at the different types of mobile options available, I’m now going to highlight the best ways to improve your mobile website.
- Show your users the content that they need most. Prioritise and get rid of features that could be deemed unnecessary for mobile use.
- Compress images (make the file smaller) this will help your mobile site load much faster.
- Make the website readable, use lists and bullet points and remember to reduce large blocks of text.
- Remember to access your analytics data to see what your mobile users are doing.
- Keep your mobile site vertical only, there’s nothing worse than trying to read an article on a site where you need to scroll in all directions.
- Steer clear of drop-downs and use menus which are easy to use, remember to have a clear ‘Home’ and ‘Back’ button on your mobile website.
- A working search function can come in handy on a mobile website, it helps the user find exactly what they’re looking for.
- Ensure that your content can be read without the need to pinch and zoom
- Use large coloured buttons for call to action indicating priority
- Make use of a contrasting colour scheme so that your visitor knows the difference between the website background and text
4. Thumb Friendliness
- Give each of your website links plenty of room by putting spaces in between your links; this will reduce accidental clicks which can be very frustrating.
- Pad out smaller buttons and check boxes to increase click ability.
5. Make it Convert
- Make sure your mobile website focuses on what’s important; remember it should be an aid to conversion.
- Take advantage of mobile click to call functions for all phone numbers
- Remove unnecessary form fields keeping them short and sweet this will reduce drop off rate
- Utilise check-boxes and lists to capture data much more easily.
What Does Mobile Mean For Your Business?
Hopefully this article has made you think more about your website’s mobile future and provided some insights into why mobile matters, customers’ expectations, mobile friendly sites, the types of mobile options available and ways in which you can improve your mobile website.
Mobile marketing is here to stay! Are you on-board yet?
|readwrite.com - Gartner 2010 – Google Optimisation Webinar 2011 – Cisco 2011|
|Google’s ‘The Mobile Movement Study’ 2011|
|10 Mobile Site Best Practices|
|Always Connected: A Day in the Digital Age|
|Mashable New Responsive Theme|
|BASF Mobile Website|
|Before and After|
|Ft Web App|