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Why Do I Need A Mobile Friendly Website?

The use of mobile devices to access the internet is set to exceed PC use. Here we discuss the mobile access trend, its implications and how web site owners can tap this growing market potential without the need for two web sites or great expense.

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, web browsing is in the palm of the user's hand. Unlike earlier mobile phones with limited internet browsing capabilities, smartphones and tablets are capable of rendering most standard web pages.

There are, of course, limitations. However, more and more people are relying on smartphones for searching the internet. Pew Research Center was reporting 32% of Americans used a cell phone, or smartphone to access the internet, back in July of 2009. Mark Hachman at PCmag.com reported in September 2011, that IDC, a market research firm, predicts mobile device use will exceed the use of PCs by 2015. With predictions of 16.6 percent growth in the use of mobile devices between 2010 and 2015. At the same time, global consumer e-commerce is predicted to grow at 12.7 percent. Mobile e-commerce is also growing, with shoppers comparing prices in their search for the best deals before committing to buy.

What does this mean for your online business?

The first thing we should note is that not all smartphones are HTML5 compatible, but then neither are all browsers and desktop computers. People using older machines, which are incompatible with the latest browsers, or people who simply do not want to upgrade, are amongst the users with limited access to html5 sites.

mobile device web site solutions

Android, iPad, Blackberry, iPhone, Computer
The sleek menu for mobile devices is designed to get mobile users to the information they need in a small screen format.

Two Site Solution?

The two web site design solution is not necessary. Let's be honest, maintaining the content on two web sites would be troublesome, so using existing content is always preferred. Rearranging the content so that mobile device users can access and find what they want with the minimum of inconvenience is an important consideration. Visitors to your site will depart if they find it annoying to navigate around the page in search of information.

If your site uses style sheets, the addition of a style sheet for mobile devices can maximize the accessibility of existing content. Use the style sheet to reformat your page layout to take advantage of the smaller screen of a mobile device. Not all mobile devices support CSS, so this is not a complete solution. More than one mobile device style sheet will be necessary to accommodate the array of device screen sizes, ranging from smartphones to tablets.

Another option is to redirect mobile users to pages designed for mobile devices. A piece of code on the server detects and directs visitors. However, there are many types of devices, the number is constantly growing, so it will not catch all mobile users.

Back to Basics

If your web site is aimed at only one type of user, mobile or desktop, then you will design accordingly. Chances are that you want your content accessible to both groups; so what can you do to accommodate a variety of visitors?

  • For maximum compatibility with mobile devices use basic HTML tags.
  • Avoid frames and flash.
  • Be aware of potential problems with layers, image maps, plugins, javascript, java and CSS.
  • Remember mobile devices have small screens, organize your content to be clutter free and easy to read on a small screen.
  • Graphics may be rendered differently on a mobile device.

Circling Back

In a time long, long ago, okay not so very long ago, a 56k modem was the enviably fast way to access the internet. We can smile at this now and look with pity on those for whom this is still their only method of connection. However, in those days there were design truths that are once more relevant. Keep the code simple, keep the layout clean and organized, and keep the file sizes down. Be sure to test your pages using as many devices and operating systems as you can.

With each iteration of smartphones, tablets and software the limitations are eroded by technological advances.

For more information about designing for mobile devices contact the BWE professionals.

Resources

Hachman, M. IDC: Mobile Internet Use to Pass PCs by 2015. PCmag.com. September 12, 2011. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2392796,00.asp

Horrigan, J. Mobile internet use increases sharply in 2009 as more than half of all Americans have gotten online by some wireless means. Pew Research Center. July 22, 2009. http://www.pewinternet.org/Press-Releases/2009/Mobile-internet-use.aspx

Date: 11.14.2011

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