How to Build a Mobile Website
More than half of Americans now use smartphones, meaning that businesses must become more adept at reaching customers through this medium if they want to remain competitive in the marketplace. Reaching out to customers wherever they are (and on whichever screen they have in front of them) is vital to an effective marketing strategy.
Mobile websites are different than regular websites, which are designed for large desktop and laptop screens. Viewing sites on a mobile screen is much different than on a computer screen. Without a mobile-friendly site, visitors to your page may experience too much unnecessary scrolling, buttons that are too small, text that is too tiny, drop-down menus that don’t work, etc. These issues are likely to drive mobile customers and site visitors away from your page.
Before building a mobile website, consider if your target market uses smartphones and if it makes sense to invest in going mobile. To help you evaluate this, consider the age of your target demographic (for example, younger customers are more likely to purchase on a mobile website than seniors), and check Google Analytics to see how much of your traffic is derived from mobile viewership overall. The process of “going mobile” can be difficult and costly, so be confident that the decision is the right one for your business and your target customers.
Once you make the decision to mobilize your site, the process for building your mobile website is fairly straightforward. First, decide what changes need to be made; then, learn what programs and wireframe will work best for your website. After that, consider the options and begin implementing your plan.
Preview Your Site
A great way to start is to understand what your current website looks like on popular smartphone screens. Sites such as DeviceAnywhere and Perfecto Mobile let you test and preview your website on different screens for free. These previews can help you visualize your mobile issues on different devices and guide your decisions for making changes. You can see what features on your site work, what parts of the page are highlighted or obstructed on smaller screens, and what issues need to be resolved as you move forward. You may decide that the experience isn’t that bad and isn’t worth the investment, or that it’s difficult enough to navigate that it’s worth building a mobile experience.
Options for Going Mobile
Once you see what needs to be done to your site, you have many options for building or changing your mobile website. The following are the three main options when it comes to mobile website development. Remember: When working with a mobile developer (whether contracted or in-house), make sure that you consider all mobile platforms and ask to see wireframes and design mockups of the mobile site before moving forward with development.
- Hiring a developer. Find a firm or a contractor that specializes in mobile website development. This search can be done either locally through the Yellow Pages or online through freelancing sites like Elance, Craigslist or oDesk. Use these sites to post your job description and find qualified workers that meet your needs. The developer can take your existing website and optimize it for mobile operating systems. This option could end up being costly, since web and mobile developers often have high rates, but you will also ensure that you get the best result. Spending money upfront may pay off once mobile traffic and customers start responding to your new site.
- Using someone on your team to convert your website. Google and other sites offer great resources for aspiring and established developers, which thoroughly outline the process for people who want to tackle the project on their own. So if you have someone on your team who is exceptionally tech-savvy, ask them to lend a hand. Using your current workforce can help keep costs down.
- Using a service to convert your current site to mobile. Many online resources are available to help convert your current site to a mobile-friendly one. These resources provide simple templates and guides, making it easy for anyone to take on this task. Check out the list below for some recommended services.
Services for Converting to Mobile
GoMo: Google’s option for helping businesses “go mobile,” GoMo is a do-it-yourself service that costs around $9 a month. Features include click-to-call buttons and simplified templates for smartphone screens.
Mobify: This service focuses on e-commerce and offers many flexible plans and options. The templates offer many easy-to-use options and menus for online retail businesses.
MobiSiteGalore: For users with limited technical knowledge, MobiSiteGalore is one of the best options, boasting an average of fifteen minutes for mobile-site design setup.
Wirenode: With easy-to-use previews, statistics and website editing, Wirenode is a thorough option. Flexible and reasonable pricing plans are available depending on the size of your business and the amount of mobile traffic you have.
Keeping Your Website Mobile-Friendly
The digital world is constantly in a state of flux, so it is important to stay on top of your site. Test your website regularly to make sure it works consistently and has updated content.
Also, consider these tips for continuing your mobile presence and keeping your site updated:
- Ensure your design is simple. Steer clear of flashy colors or excessive drop-down menus. These features can be overwhelming on smaller screens. Be sure your users can easily find what they are looking for. Sometimes, this will involve dropping some extra features of the website; focus on the most important elements of each page.
- Keep your fonts basic and easy-to-read. Make the font big so it can be read on a much smaller screen, and make your buttons large enough that they will be easy to find and push on a mobile device.
- Put important information for customers at the top, such as contact information. This makes it easier for users to find the information they are looking for and makes it easier for them to immediately contact you with any questions.
- If you’re interested in continuing your mobile business growth beyond your mobile website conversion, consider building a mobile app.
Andrea Hayden holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Allied Language Arts, with a background in secondary education. In addition to regular contributions for Docstoc, Hayden works as Training Consultant and Content Manager for ArnoldIT, specialists in enterprise search related disciplines.