Published on December 17th, 2013 | by Yael Grauer0
How to Optimize Your Business Website for the Mobile Era
It’s a sure bet at least some of your readers are browsing your website or email newsletter on their mobile devices: Nine in ten American adults now own smartphones and a third of American adults own a tablet computer such as an iPad, up from 18 percent a year ago, according to Princeton Survey Research Associates International. For some marketers, mobile traffic is already outpacing desktop visitors, but adapting your web presence to the tablet era can be a challenge.
“Having a mobile presence that works for people is really important, because if they’re frustrated with your site on their phone, they’re probably not going to go to their desktop computer and try to find your site there, especially if they’re doing something location-based,” says Karin Odell of Venus Designs, who has spent over a decade doing branding, logos, strategy and website design.
Hone in on your priorities
Start to optimize your web presence for mobile by looking at the top priorities you have for your business, says Odell. Different companies interact differently with customers online. For example, a brick-and-mortar business may primarily be concerned with making sure their location and hours remain highly visible. Professional offices may want clients to be able to easily schedule an appointment. Other businesses may value having their multimedia content be highly accessible in a mobile environment.
If you have a very dynamic site with a lot of moving parts, it may be hard to navigate the entire site on a tablet, let alone a mobile phone.
“What would you most like your customers to be able to do on your site?” Odell says to ask yourself. Then, take those priorities and make sure those features are easy to find, and use, on mobile devices.
Consider responsive design—WordPress makes it easy
One big obstacle to adapting your business’ web presence for mobile devices is that creating a dedicated mobile site can be expensive and complex. If you don’t have the resources to create an app or mobile site, responsive design may be just the solution.
Responsive design means that your website will be reconfigured and resized so it looks good on any screen, without having to design a website for each mobile device or browser.
WordPress, the most popular website publishing tool and CMS, has pre-built themes that incorporate responsive design elements, making this choice a no-brainer for smaller marketing organizations already using WordPress to power their site or blog.
Just make sure the WordPress theme you select is “responsive”—meaning that it responds or adapts to the size of the screen the visitor is viewing on. Typically, responsive themes mention this feature in their descriptions. WordPress’s own popular Twenty Twelve and Twenty Thirteen themes are responsive, and there is a huge selection of both premium and free themes that look great, no matter what the size of the screen.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple plugin to make a non-responsive theme responsive. It really does require switching themes. An experienced WordPress developer can help with the process so that the transition is smooth, without broken features on your site.
Create a dedicated mobile site
What if you want the best mobile experience for your audience and have the resources to do it? If that’s the case, you’re going to create a dedicated mobile site for the small screen. This is a more expensive option than developing a responsive website, but can make sense for some businesses—for example, if you’d like people to be able to easily purchase from their mobile phone and your online catalog is extensive, a mobile site may yield a good return on your investment.
It’s tempting to add columns, sidebars and widgets on your mobile site, but very hard to click on the right thing when trying to scroll in and out on a mobile device. So remember to prioritize your features and layout around your business goals.
Test your site out on various devices
Whichever route you take—responsive design or dedicated mobile—here are a few steps you’ll need to follow up and make sure your customers have a great experience.
- Test your site on various devices and with various operating systems. The mobile world comes in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of operating platforms including iOS, Android and Windows. A font that may look perfect on a desktop computer might be hard to read on a phone, for example. Odell also points out that it’s a good idea to test out phone numbers, to make sure that clicking on them on your mobile device allows you to actually make a phone call. “Something non-standard, like putting periods between numbers, doesn’t work. You can easily check whether it does or not right from your phone,” Odell explains.
- Compare your site to others. Looking at sites you like or wish to imitate on various devices can be helpful. Pay attention to which features improve your experience and which leave you frustrated. Get a sense for how your competitors, suppliers or vendors do mobile design by looking at a single site on multiple screen sizes and multiple devices.
- Compare mobile visitors before and after. Google Analytics and other Web traffic tools make it a cinch to compare the percentage of traffic coming from mobile, so find out if your efforts are paying off. Other numbers to track if you choose to optimize for mobile traffic: time that mobile visitors spend on your site, and how many visitors are clicking on your calls-to-action or other conversion mechanisms.
How do you ensure you have a mobile optimized website? Share your tips in the comments.
This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.
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