Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and PDAs (personal digital assistants) give users the freedom to search the internet, visit social networking sites or send and receive emails from almost anywhere.
Customers are now using their mobile phones to research products and compare prices while they are in a shop, or to make purchases online on their way to work.
The fast spread of this technology makes it really important for your website to open quickly and display clearly on mobile devices. It also allows your business to engage with your customers as they move around.
This guide provides an overview of how and why you need to optimise your business website for mobile devices.
Many standard websites work well and look great on a computer or laptop. However, on the smaller screen of a mobile device, sites with lots of graphics, complex navigation or too much text are hard to use.
If your website is not optimised - that is, designed with mobile phone users in mind - you could be cutting out a significant, and growing, section of your audience. Customers may turn to your competitors who have a mobile website because they may perceive this as better service.
There are 2 ways to make your website work well on mobile devices:
A website that works well on mobile devices will generally be easy to view, use and navigate.
An optimised website is likely to include:
The Queensland Government's TransLink site is a great example of a website that is optimised for mobile use.
TransLink's mobile version is quite different from its standard website. Open TransLink on your smartphone and you will see a very simple list of options arranged in the order that people are likely to use them when they are out and about. The journey planner function is very prominent.
The Telstra Smartphone Index 2013 reports that 62% of Australian mobile phone users own an internet connected smartphone, and a survey by PwC forecasts that 1 in 4 Australians will own a tablet computer such as an iPad by 2015.
Ownership of mobile devices is increasing, and so is the frequency of mobile internet use from these devices, with more than 71% of smartphone users accessing the internet on their smartphones daily. Research shows that people use mobile devices even when they're at home (e.g. while they are watching television).
People most often use smartphones and tablets for emailing, searching the internet and participating in social networking. They use smartphones for research before making a purchase, including comparing prices and products while they are in a shop ready to buy.
People also use smartphones and tablets for playing games and listening to music, while tablets are commonly used for reading books and newspapers and watching films and television.
Men are more likely to use smartphones than women. Smartphones are more common in metropolitan areas where mobile internet and phone coverage is more consistent. Use of smartphones is growing fast across all age groups.
The tips below will help you optimise your website for mobile devices.
As with any business or marketing tool, it's worth thinking about what you're trying to achieve by optimising your website for mobile use.
When people use a mobile device to access your website, what is their likely goal? If people are trying to locate your shop or contact you, the website navigation should feature this option prominently. Alternatively, if users are likely to be trying to compare prices, post a review or make a purchase, your navigation should highlight those options. Information like your company profile might be best kept in the background unless it's really important to your customers.
People using mobile devices expect fast results. Websites need to load quickly to be effective on mobile devices. They also need to be easy to navigate with fingers, rather than a mouse or keyboard. The best mobile sites get people to the information or function they need within 1 or 2 clicks. They have buttons that are finger-sized and don't require users to type, pull or zoom.
Good mobile websites are more than just reformatted version of a traditional website. Think about your customers. If they are young or tech-savvy, and are regularly using mobile devices to access online information, you will need to carefully consider the functionality of your mobile website (as well as its look and feel). Consider specific features such as click-to-call (i.e. a button or image that a user can press to get an immediate connection with your business).
Mobile device users tend to use social media and mobile apps that are more about connections, while a traditional website can get away with a one-way interaction. If you have developed a mobile app or a social media presence, you can link these with your mobile-friendly website to create a dynamic online experience for your customers.
Mobile users like to share information with others. For example, they like to share links through social media, write online reviews or 'check in' to show their friends what they've been up to.
Consider incentives for people to use your mobile website or to engage with your business. Coupons, QR codes and special promotions can be effective marketing and engagement tools.
Free website analytics tools can help analyse how well your website is working for mobile users. These tools can tell you how many hits on your website come from smartphones and tablets, and what is happening from there. If people are leaving your website immediately after they enter from a smartphone, your site may not be working effectively for mobile devices.
Given the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, all businesses should make sure their website functions well on a mobile device.
Think carefully about how you want customers who use mobile devices to experience your website. This will form the basis of a brief for a web developer or web manager to help optimise your website.
If you use an open source content management system (CMS), you may be able to use a free plugin to make your website mobile ready. These plugins can automatically put the code into your site so that:
If your website has been custom-built for you then you may need to use a web developer to optimise your website for mobile devices.
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