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Should Our Website Be Mobile-Friendly?

31 Million Smartphone Users

According to a survey in the middle of 2013 there were 31 million Smartphone users in the UK which means that about half the population and about two-thirds of the UK mobile phone network has use of a Smartphone. The amount of Smartphone owners is estimated to grow to 35 million this year and to 40 million by 2015. Most of these users are of working age.

All of these users are using their phones to access the internet, in some way or another as Smartphones become more like handheld computers. Indeed today’s phones are now more powerful than a high end desktop from the late 90’s.

People use their phones daily and not just for calls and texting. They surf the web, update social media, shop online, pay bills and use them for gaming, such is the power of these little electronic devices.

“The amount of Smartphone users will grow to approx 40 million by 2015 in the UK”

All this means that more people will probably access the internet via a mobile or tablet than they will by a desktop come the end of 2015 and this represents a quantum shift in how websites should be built.

Like most businesses in the UK most are wondering if they should be moving towards a mobile friendly online strategy and how they should respond to the ever growing number of people using mobiles to surf.

There are additional questions such as: Do I need an app for my company? Is my website ok as it for Smartphone users? Do I need to have a site that is mobile ready?

In answering these questions we should not just go like a bull in a china shop and immediately make our whole web strategy mobile ready by the end of the month, but also we should not dismiss it out of hand as being too much money to spend.

To answer the question of whether you need a mobile ready web presence you will have to analyse who your target audience is, what information you wish to convey to your user base and also think about whether a mobile site will help your company grow.

So, do you need a mobile website?

How would you know if you would need a mobile friendly website? If you are using Google Analytics or similar you can review how many mobile visitors you are getting. You could also poll your customers to see if your current website is causing problems for mobile users and depending on the response make an informed decision.

If you are a business to business company you will need to ask yourself if the companies you serve will be looking at your site on mobile devices or do their staff sit at desktops in an office.

Other questions you need to get an answer to is whether your customers use mobiles when away from the office and if so how often? Will they use mobiles outside of office hours to purchase products from your online shop? Do they need to view a list of services while not at a desktop? Do they need your contact details in a hurry while using a mobile? A Locksmith or a Taxi would be a good example of when this would work for a mobile friendly site.

The important question is can you convey the information to your customers they require by having a mobile friendly site?

You also need to ask yourself what information your customers need to send to you. Can they use a Smartphone to do this? If you are in Manufacturing or Engineering it is unlikely you would be able to receive a CAD drawing or an advanced spreadsheet via a mobile. If you run a graphic design business you may not be able to receive a Photoshop file via a smart phone. But then do you think that customers would be looking for your contact details on a mobile device?

Do I need a Mobile Site or a Mobile-Friendly Site or a Mobile App?

To answer this you need to be aware of what the differences are. A mobile site is a website that has been designed from the ground up to be used on mobiles. It is what is known as a mobile first design. They can be completely separate from your main site and have a separate mobile domain or use the same domain as your website or be a sub domain. You can automatically add code to your site that redirects a visitor to the relevant site depending on the device they are using.

A mobile site will tend to be a cut down version of your main site, more akin to a highly detailed business card. This is due to the fact mobile screens can get swamped with information and be hard to use if you are endlessly scrolling through pages and pages of content. Also having too large a site can prevent it loading in a timely manner and the user will go elsewhere. A mobile site is lean and fast.

The next type of site is a mobile friendly site. This site is a jack of all trades and is usually responsive in design, so it works across all platforms and can be resized automatically and fluidly to suit screen size, but is the same website for all. The site layout will change to a more compact design for an iPad and Phone but be viewable like a normal website on a PC. These are currently the most popular type of site and most sites designed today will be responsive mobile friendly sites.

They are less fancy that old desktop only sites and are less graphically intensive and do not employ large images and flash animations as these would hinder the mobile experience.

The third type of system a smartphone user will use is what is known as the mobile app (short for application) these are trendy but are more suited to things like news or showing you the weather. They are probably not ideally suited to a business that wants to convey data and information to a user. They are more like an electronic infographic so you need to be sure that they will work for your business. Again these might be good for ordering a taxi, ordering fast food and takeaways, a parcel service when a phone’s GPS service is required, an energy company bill viewing platform or a dating site but would not suit a business like an art gallery or a butcher.

Developing an app is quite expensive though and you will need to employ a software studio that is geared up to build apps for all the different platforms such as Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Apple and Android. Apple is notoriously hard to develop for if the studio doesn’t have the capability already and there are restrictions to what you can and cannot do. The studio will also need an Apple developer’s license and most apps can only be downloaded onto a Smartphone via the relevant app store such as Google Play or the iTunes Store.

Apps also need to be approved which takes time and you can will also need to let your customers know, via a website, that your app exists in the first place. An app will also be harder to update as Smartphones evolve over the next five to ten years, whereas a website will be easier to maintain and grow

So where do you go from here?

If you are looking at what the options are for your business when it comes to your mobile web presence you should start by analysing your existing systems and see how many mobiles users interact with it and what information they are looking for. Ask your customer base what they are doing and how they are doing it

You should do all this before you decide to call a web designer so they can best advise you on a strategy that will help your business grow and your customer base to widen. Good web designers will advise you on how a mobile site will enhance your business free of charge and help you with any questions.

Thanks for reading.
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