Is It Time For You To Get A Mobile Website?

September 13, 2012

In these days of really smart mobile phones, and cheaper and faster mobile Internet connections, then “Yes…” is the answer! It IS time to bite the bullet and send your website mobile!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve only got to look around you to see that there are LOTS of people that “live” on their mobile phone – using it for messaging, social media and web browsing – wherever they go!

Heck… even places like KFC and Macca’s are using mobile now to take orders BEFORE people arrive in their shops!

The big question is… how does your current “desktop” website measure up when viewed on a mobile? Is what you offer online useful to mobile visitors? Do you need to create a mobile version of your website to cater for this market?

Quite often, your existing website might be just OK. Modern mobile browsers are capable of displaying “normal” websites quite well – with the exception of some media like flash – so people will more than likely be able to “see” your site on their phones.

BUT… and isn’t there always one of those… you’ve got to remember a few things about mobile users that affect their experience with a “normal” website:

  1. Their screen size is a lot smaller than a desktop PC – so IF it displays, there will be a lot of scrolling around… and zooming in/out to get the full picture – which can quickly become very frustrating and time consuming for anyone!

  2. A “normal” desktop page incorporates a LOT of elements (text, pictures, scripts etc) to build a page. All of this relates to data size and download speeds… a “mobile” version of your site is usually a “minimalised” version, optimised with smaller file sizes for faster download speeds and snappier display!

  3. Mobile users are more likely to be looking for an IMMEDIATE answer to a specific problem, like… right NOW! – so your main conversion tactics should be different for mobile users.

  4. Mobile users will be very unforgiving with a website that doesn’t “play” properly… probably never returning if they have any issues with the previous three points. A desktop user is more likely to bookmark a site for later viwing, if it looks like it might be able to help.

With this in mind then, how do you go about making your website mobile?

Believe it or not… it is NOT all that complicated to do. Nor is it so expensive that only the “big” boys can play…

Going mobile is well within the reach of most small businesses!

Going Mobile – Method 1 – Third Party Services

There are various free (and paid) services available which can create a “mobile” version of your existing website.

Fill in a few fields, set up the redirect script provided on your home page, and mobile users will be sent to a mobile version of your site.

These seem to strip out the “layout” formatting from your existing pages, and display one long page of text, which may or may not be a good reflection of your business.

The “free” services may also add their own advertising to your pages to help pay for the service.

Being hosted on a “third-party” platform, you have no “ownership” of the mobile content… and are at the mercy of any company that decides to change their terms of service… or go out of business!

I personally prefer to “own” my content (especially once it gets indexed in the search engines) so would prefer something that lives on MY server… which means this option is not for me 🙂

And since it’s on my server, there are no extra ongoing hosting costs involved.

Going Mobile – Method 2 – Dedicated Mobile Site

Create a dedicated mobile version of your site which lives on your current web host.

For example… mobile.comeonaussie.com

Here I have a subdomain (set up from within my cPanel) which is a totally separate website with content designed for mobile users.

As it is only fairly new, it does not (yet) contain all the content from the main site.

The idea is simple… a mobile user comes to the main home page… and they are automatically directed to the mobile website home page. If they want to go back to the “desktop” version, they click a link which allows them to do just that!

That can mean duplication of effort (and perhaps content – or parts of it) as you create the content for your dedicated site.

But the main advantage here is that you can CHOOSE/CREATE the specific content to show mobile users, and that mobile content gets indexed seperately by the search engines!

And, being a proper subdomain on your web server, you have access to complete log files which show how your mobile site is performing!

Going Mobile – Method 3 – Integration into Existing Website

Modify your existing website to incorporate mobile browser detection, which:

  • detects mobile users on ANY page, then
  • redirects them to a mobile version of THAT page

The page displayed to mobile visitors uses a different theme/layout and stylesheet to present mobile optimised content. Again, if you’ve got things set up properly, they should be able to switch back to the desktop version if they choose to.

For example, I could quickly develop a mobile version of any of my own sites which are currently managed in WordPress, by simply adding one plugin (for the redirection) and a new mobile “theme”, and I would have a fully integrated mobile site, lickity split!

The main advantage? You only need to create/edit ALL of your content in one place.

But since ALL your content becomes available to mobile users, you’ve lost the opportunity to rework it to specifically appeal to them!

And you don’t have detailed information about WHO is using the “mobile” version and what they are specifically doing, as your webstats are for your main website.

So Which Method Is Best For You?

Ahhh… the “how long is a piece of string” question again… 🙂

Which method you choose will depend on:

  1. How much content you have right now?
  2. How much content you regularly add to your site?
    And how often you do that?
    (thinking here about the duplication of effort needed here for #1 and #2)
  3. Is there any point in limiting the content available to mobile visitors?
  4. Can you identify a specific conversion tactic that would be appropiate for mobile visitors?
  5. How much is in your budget?
  6. How “technical” do you want to get?
  7. How do you currently monetize your site? Can that be adapted to mobile?

While I do have websites (mainly article based and developed in WordPress) that may be more suited to the integrated approach, I chose the dedicated setup recently with the mobile version of Come On Aussie (my ten year old Australian website directory).

I have THOUSANDS of pages there, so I wasn’t too confident about trying to integrate a mobile theme into all that existing content (especially since these pages are mostly “hand-coded” or server generated).

At the same time, the effort involved in re-creating all these pages for a dedicated site would be astronomical!

I chose to go the “dedicated” way for that site, because I could start with a clean slate and can design something highly suitable for mobile users!

I have also limited the number of pages currently available to mobile users, choosing only to include only ONE main category, a keyword search routine and some “newsy” items, at this stage.

So I will need a plan to add the many other “category” pages to bring it more into line with the main site, but because these number in their hundreds, that will take some time/effort/expense to do!

Strange as it sounds, it’s actually very refreshing to see things in a browser window only 300 pixels wide 😉

I do quite like the “minimalist” approach used here to present “Just the facts, ma’am”!!!


Suggestion…

To set up your dedicated mobile site on a subdomain, then doing it in WordPress with an appropriate mobile theme, will certainly make the whole experience a breeze!

It’s certainly within the realms of the D.I.Y. person if you have the time and/or inclination.

However, if you’d like someone to prepare a thorough evaluation of your mobile website needs, or even to set up a mobile website for you… then give me a call!

I’d love to have a chat to you about the best ways of achieving that!

Cheers for now
Stephen Spry

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