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.

So You Have Facebook, Do You Still Need a Website?

Ernie Black, WebmasterNo doubt Facebook is powerful, and your company, however large or small, should be on Facebook. And you should have a Twitter feed. And don’t forget Pinterest, Tumblr, and all the other great social media out there today. So with all this, do you still need your own destination website?

In a word, yes. Or rather, in a word, Branding. Image. Your website is your online presence, your best opportunity to develop your Brand online, with the look and feel and features that reflect what you do. On Facebook, every page pretty much looks the same: different photos and text, sure, and you can build specific tabs for your Twitter profile, YouTube channel, and even open an F-Commerce store to sell your products, but all with the same generic Facebook look and feel. But on your own website, you control the layout, the choice and positioning of graphics, the features you want to display, and more. Compare any company’s Facebook page to their unique website, and the difference is immediate and striking. Yes, you need a Facebook presence, but to build your brand, you also need your own website.

The second big reason for your own website: it’s yours. You own the content and the data. If–or rather, when–Facebook decides to make a major change in how things are done on Facebook (like they’ve never done this before), you have no recourse but to go along with the changes. And if they decide for whatever reason to close your page, you’re lost. Most important, if you’re gathering data and building a database of your users, customers, products, events, etc., on your site that database is yours, not Facebook’s. (Yes, you should backup your data on a regular basis and keep it safely in a separate location, but it’s yours.)

You want another reason? SEO: Search Engine Optimization. If your website is built with SEO in mind, then you have a better chance to be found in the top search engine results on Google, Bing, or Yahoo. This is a big topic, deserving separate discussion, but just Google SEO to learn more.

There’s lots more you can do with your own database: create forms for user input and interactivity; promote your products; promote other websites; connect to your YouTube channel, Twitter, Tumblr, and, yes, Facebook; blog to build more interest and traffic; create a forum for discussion groups; and so much more.

So the short answer is, yes, you still need your own website. And yes, you still need to take advantage of Facebook and other Social Media. It’s not either/or, it’s both.