Going Mobile: Mobile-Friendly Websites

Going Mobile

If you’re a certain age, the heading above may trigger memories of The Who smashing guitars on stage, but in the wild world of the web today it means something quite different: Is your website mobile-friendly? Or is your website suitable for desktop or laptop viewing only? Maybe it looks fine on a tablet, but check it on your iPhone or Android: if you have to “pinch” the screen to make it readable because the text is way too small or the layout far too cluttered, you’re not mobile-friendly.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is you may be losing customers, for two very big reasons:

  • 61% of internet access is now on mobile devices, according to InMobi, and Nielsen reports up to 84% of US consumers browsing their smartphones or tablets while watching TV.
    Mobile Web Browsing Overtakes PC Browsing

  • Google recently announced major changes to their search algorithms, penalizing websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Sites that fail to pass the Google mobile-friendly standards risk losing rankings on search engines, at least for searches on mobile devices (and after all, those are precisely the mobile users you want to capture). The result: a decrease in overall visitors, which in turn can mean a huge drop in revenues for those who rely on web traffic.

How do you know if your site is mobile-friendly? Take the Google test.

The Solution

One size does not fit all. You have to assess your website needs and determine the value proposition that’s right for you. Let’s look at three basic approaches:

  • The Ostrich: My site is fine as it is, I’m not going to spend any money fixing what isn’t broken.
  • The Pragmatist: What’s the best bang for my buck? What’s the quickest, least expensive way to be mobile-friendly and not reinvent the wheel?
    Solution: A partial site build to provide mobile access for key pages.

  • The All-In: OK, it’s time for a site redesign anyway, what do I need to do to optimize the site for all platforms?
    Solution: A complete site conversion to a “responsive” design optimized for all devices.

Sample Mobile SitePutting aside “The Ostrich,” let’s compare the other two options. The first is a partial site redesign where you or your web team creates a mobile version of your site (or of key pages, at a minimum the homepage and any essential pages such as Contact Info) which is fully mobile-friendly. A simple script detects whether someone is accessing your site from a desktop or a mobile device, and delivers the appropriate version.

For smaller sites, or just a few pages, this can be very cost effective, providing your customers a mobile-friendly experience with minimal expense and no need to redraft the entire site. The downside? You have two sets of pages to maintain, and it’s really only a temporary solution. But if you don’t edit the site very often, this could be the ideal solution at a much lower cost. (Of course, you should update your site, or at least your homepage, frequently, but that’s another topic.)

The second option, which you may have seen promoted online recently, is the full site conversion to what’s called a “responsive template”: a design which automatically adapts to the browsing device (“user agent”), delivering the same content formatted to whatever platform the visitor is using. The layout “responds” to mobile devices with one layout, tablets with another, and desktop PCs with a third layout. Additionally, a WordPress responsive template empowers you to edit your site at will through its capable admin interface, so you can blog or edit page content at will (allowing you to update your site frequently without having to pay a third party for these edits). The downside? A more expensive initial development phase.

This could be an opportune time for a site redesign if it’s been a few years since you last updated your site design. But at the very least, I strongly recommend the second option: For minimal cost, you can have a sharp-looking, mobile-friendly website, improving your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and garnering more customers. At Standing Stone Designs, I have worked with several clients recently who inquired about the need to be mobile-friendly, developing a custom fit for each client based on their requirements and budget. I will be happy to review the options with you and help you choose the best approach.

Small Business Website Design and Hosting Essentials

Everybody knows their small business needs a web presence today. But what are the essentials? What style site do you need? What about SEO and SMM and CMS and other acronyms? Here is a simple Top Ten list of website requirements for success today:

  1. A clear, concise description of your business: You need to grab your visitor in the first 2 or 3 seconds. Be Clear, Concise and Compelling.
  2. A simple, easy-to-remember and easy-to-type web domain: ideally, a .com URL omitting hyphens and unusual spellings if possible as these are stumbling blocks to potential visitors.
  3. Easy to follow navigation: an navigation scheme with top level sections and sub-sections as needed, typically a navigation bar at the top with your main sections and dropdowns for your sub-sections.
  4. Contact Info! Make it easy for folks to contact you with contact info in the footer and a contact us page with phone, email, physical address, and any other pertinent information. Set your email to your domain so potential customers can easily remember it and associate it with you (example: me@mydomain.com rather than me@gmail.com).
  5. Fresh, high quality content: keep your site updated regularly so it’s always fresh; a blog can help immensely in keeping fresh content on the homepage.
  6. Attention-grabbing design fitting your subject area: a tourism site, for instance, should feature photo galleries of key destinations, a photographer’s site a rich gallery of sample work, and a manufacturer’s site aiming at online sales product info, photos, and easy way to purchase
  7. Reliable, secure hosting: it’s easy to get web hosting for $10 or less per month these days, but how reliable is the host? how readily available to service your needs? how flexible in their offerings? I offer my clients a hosting plus support package tailored to their needs, so that they have guaranteed time each month for their special requirements at a reduced rate.
  8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): website elements that help drive search engines to find your site, including keywords, alt and title tags, inbound links, and social media.
  9. SMM (Social Media Marketing) or just “Social”: your social media connections, from Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn to Tumblr.
  10. CMS (Content Management System): you need a CMS that facilitates easy and flexible site maintenance, whether you edit the site yourself, have a webmaster or even team to manage the site, or a combination. There are many platforms available today, but the most versatile and simple to use for a small business is a WordPress site.

I will address these issues in more detail future posts.

The Importance of a Business Blog

One of the goals of any Chamber of Commerce is to help its members expand their business. Previously this would be done by word-of-mouth, newspaper advertisements, fliers, or any other means necessary, to let people know about available services. These days, however, we all have a relatively new tool to help us along – the Internet.

Blogging is the number 1 way to be found on the Internet. Businesses should blog.

Until recently, the Internet seemed virtually unapproachable, as it was very difficult to fathom its potential, and everything it had to offer. As time progressed, however, we have all found that we rely on it more-and-more, and in ways nobody would have thought possible, even 5-10 years ago.

Gone are the days when we would spend an exorbitant amount of time thumbing through countless books, articles, and periodicals looking for ways to increase our business exposure; and once you found the information, it was a slow and arduous process to put it into practice.

These days, this is just not the case. All we need now is a computer with an Internet connection, and we can be self-sufficient with our basic marketing and advertising needs. We now have inexpensive (if not free) websites, social media, and, the reason for this post, blogs.

Blog is derived from ‘website log’… blog. It’s also the number 1 way to organically rise in the search engines. Fresh content is key to SEO or search engine optimization.

To me, a blog is a fantastic tool to have included with, or be, your basic website. Once your website content is set, it’s usually pretty complete unless something significant changes in your business’ means or practices.

Blogs are a fast and easy way to keep your customers up-to-date on your business. They can be used to announce new services, public appearances, charity work, well-wishes and thank you’s to your customers for a successful year, the installation of updated equipment, or even to run a sale: Mention this blog, and receive 10% off… People love sales and saving money, but, they also love knowing that they are being rewarded for keeping up with your business.

Blogs are also the best way to convince potential clients that you are an expert in your field, to build that necessary trust.

The information mentioned above is great for solidifying a relationship with your current and future customers by giving them the inside scoop regarding your practices and growth. Some of these announcements are important enough to share, but, don’t necessarily warrant a new page on your website. This is especially useful if you are paying an outside company to update your website information. Having a self-hosted blog within your own website, under your own domain name, can save you time and money by saving professional updates for major changes in your business, and making initial announcements yourself within your blog quickly and… for free.

Take a few minutes and look into opening a blog for yourself. I will be back soon with more details about blogging and other ways you can easily boost your business without breaking the bank.

The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce offers WordPress seminars and workshops through their affiliation with the Center of Women & Enterprise utilizing teacher Michelle Fontaine. WordPress, the self-hosted version of blogging, is the favored platform for bloggers today. Seminars and workshops are scheduled a couple of times a year. The next is scheduled for June 19th and 22nd, 2013. Details on WordPress offerings can be found here.

The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to helping you build your business. If you would like guidance with your writing skills, please leave your comments below and we’ll see what we can do!

Learn about Michelle Lynn