Contributed by Mitchell Vice
When someone tells you you need a mobile website, they’re right, but probably not in the way you think they are. You shouldn’t consider your need for a mobile website to be for mobile phones, but rather for a plethora of mobile devices, or, even better, multiple Internet-enabled devices.
Get ready for your head to explode . . . Long gone is the day when the two websites (one for desktops and one for smartphones) strategy was a winning one. And you’re saying to yourself, “Wait… What? I don’t even have an obsolete mobile site yet!”
Imagine creating one website for the BlackBerry, another for the iPhone, the iPad, netbook, Kindle, AppleTV, cable/satellite and gaming consoles and Internet-enabled TVs, refrigerators, vacuums, etc.—and you thought making your website look good in Internet Explorer 6 was a challenge.
With this in mind, website owners need to develop a strategy for providing information and services to their visitors across the many devices. However, mobile strategies can vary massively from website to website, depending the experience you want to offer your visitors. Catering your online experience to a specific device is a lot more in depth than simply tweaking your design or layout to accommodate varying screen resolutions and aspects.
Image courtesy of Smashing Magazine.
The most common mistake website owners make is simply re-purposing their content to fit on a phone. With modern mobile browsers being capable of processing just about any technology available, and wireless bandwidth speeds making downloading a non-issue, it’s easy to do . . . but is it right? You need consider why visitors would be using your website on a mobile device. Are they just passing the time? Logging in to make a purchase or track an order? Are they trying to contact you for support? Is all of your website’s content preventing your visitors from accomplishing the very thing they came to your mobile site for?
Researching your visitors’ behavior through surveys, focus groups and analytics will help you determine what type of experience they expect to have when they use your website on a mobile device. Understanding those expectations will help you better strategize your approach to your mobile website experience. (You may even come away with a new strategy for your current website.)
Can you get away with a minor tweak? Maybe so. Do you need to redesign your current website to respond to various devices? (We did. Try pennapowers.com on a phone, tablet, netbook or refrigerator.) Do you need to provide an experience that would be better served with a device-specific website or perhaps an app? There are pros and cons to every approach, but ultimately your strategy needs to be guided by your content, objectives and visitors’ expectations. Once you have all of the data, you can make an informed decision about which approach will benefit you, and more importantly, your visitors.