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Want to build a mobile website? The good news is that you already have one.

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Here’s a factoid to wow your brains. In 2010, 36% of all smartphone users browsed the internet on their mobile.

Note: this statistic is over 12 months old. Recent figures suggest the mobile browsing is now as high as 70%.

According to Gartner research, by 2013 more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online.

Walk into any city or urban café and you’ll see people using their mobile devices — from mobile phones to tablets — to research products and services. These devices provide a completely different experience to that of the personal computer; to communicate effectively, your business will need to redesign and simplify the pages of your website.

Want proof? A recent survey by Compuware found that 40% of users turned to a competitor’s website after a bad mobile experience.

How to build a mobile website

The good news is every website is already mobile — all mobile browsers can access any website.

But not every website is optimised for a mobile browser. There are the basics you must factor. Flash is a big no-no — iPhones don’t support it and will just display an empty box where the flash component is – while nice big, fat buttons make a site ‘thumb friendly’.

To build a top-notch mobile website, you have to put yourself in your users’ shoes and understand what they’re looking for and how they will consume that information.

People searching on mobile devices are generally not sitting at a desk with a cup of tea beside them. Chances are they’re walking through a car park, phone in hand, trying to find somewhere to buy a last-minute present. Therefore, it’s vital that the design of the page is easy to navigate with only necessary information, sans clutter.

Best of both worlds

Remember, you can have a mobile website as well as a regular one. When a user visits your website, clever technology determines what browser they’re using.

If they’re using a regular desktop browser, they’ll be directed to the main website; if they’re using a mobile browser they’ll be directed to the mobile website. All the user needs to do is enter the one URL. Simples.

Still not convinced?

We’ve now reached the image-based portion of our article.

To highlight why it’s important for your business to have a mobile website here are two examples. Both of these websites sell Nutcase helmets online.

Website one: NutcaseHelmets.com.au

Open this website by clicking on the link above. If you’re browsing from your PC you’ll get your bog-standard website. However, view it on your mobile phone and you’ll be redirected to this page:

Website two: Toyssale.com

Toyssale is the website that came up first in my Google results when I was searching for Nutcase helmets on my mobile phone.

On a normal browser the website doesn’t look too bad and chances are I would have clicked around and, if the price was right, I would have been comfortable making a purchase.

But I wasn’t on a normal computer, I was in the car on a mobile browser, and this is how the website opened on my phone:

I had to zoom in to read different parts of the page and, while the navigation is ok when using a normal browser, it was awful on the mobile phone.

As you would expect I was back to Google quick smart to find a better mobile site for what I was looking for.

The app V mobile web debate

If you’re considering a mobile app rather than a mobile website, we will always recommend you mobilise your website first.

In most situations users are going to look for you via a browser; if you’re going to search for any type of product or service on your mobile phone you’re going to search the mobile web, not an app store.

Anthony Gherghetta is the mobile creative director at The App Studio in Melbourne.

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