Mobile Web Use

This article provides a commonsense approach to helping the increasing number of mobile phone users when visiting your website.

The scale of Mobile Shopping – by early 2013, shopping on mobile in the UK is likely to amount to around 10% of total online spending. Back in 2010, many dismissed mobile retail as a niche offering and something that wouldn’t threaten many retailers. In the event, a growth rate of nearly 600% in the UK over this period has been estimated, so that mobile shopping is now certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Mobile Phone Visits – we are seeing strong increases in mobile phone traffic to our client sites. In the case of one client, mobile visits comprised 27% of total site visitors recently.

Other client shopping sites now gain 10% of their traffic in this way. Of these mobile phone and tablet visits, around 90% will be shared between iPhone / iPad and Android. Our sites with a more commercial or technical emphasis to their products and services do show a lower percentage – but are still growing strongly.

 

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Mobile Web Costs – there was a time when website owners considered setting up separate versions of their websites specially designed to present well to mobile phones. Things have now matured to the stage where those who want to surf the net using their mobile can choose iPhones, Androids, Windows8 or a range of tablet devices, which can make quite a good job of resolving standard web pages. Those with less well adapted phones simply do not use them much to visit websites.

So the decision for website owners has become quite different. No longer do they need a separate site on a separate domain aimed at low spec mobile phones. They simply need to ensure that their site presents well to the most able of mobiles – iPhone, Android and Windows8 and the latest range of tablets.

Six Simple Steps – Here are six simple steps you can take to improve the experience such mobile and tablet users have when visiting your site:

1. Consider a dot mobi domain name -.mobi was specially introduced to allow website owners to set up a separate version of their website for access by mobiles. If you have a really complex site, it may be simpler to develop an entirely new site and to divert mobile visitors to it than to try to adapt it for mobile users. For most sites, any action needed to cater for mobiles and tablets can be handled within the existing domain.

2. Identify mobile devices – the technology to identify the device and operating system of a site visitor is well established and means we can present the pages of the website in ways aimed specifically at the visitor’s device. In other words, we can present each of the pages on your website in a way tailored to the visiting device.

3. Take advantage of the free functionality – mobiles already automatically present certain things differently from desktop machines. For example a dropdown box on your site is presented as a “slide up box” on iPhones. You need no changes to your website – the phone does it automatically. Just be aware of the facilities and maybe change your site to use them rather than more cumbersome alternatives.

4. Consider whether to abbreviate text – Some people choose to make all the main site text available to mobiles; others develop abbreviated text designed to present the main points on a single mobile screen, perhaps with a “more info” icon to access the full detail. The final decision may depend on how much text you have and how important it is to have access to all of it.

5. Remove unnecessary bits of your standard page template – for mobiles and tablets, your navigation bar can be condensed into a single icon to save space. When this is touched, the entire navigation slides out ready for use. If you use two columns of text, present as a single column to mobiles. Do you need to present your page footer to mobile users? Do you have a less important side column which can become a slide-in column for mobile users?

6. Present your images beautifully – mobiles (particularly iPhones and Androids) and tablets are very good indeed at presenting images. So take advantage of their features when presenting your gallery to them. Allow them to swipe the page to move from one image to the next. And if you are putting moving images or a slideshow on your site, there are ways of doing so which mobiles can interpret and others which they cannot.

The mobile phone approach – we assess how important mobile users are for all sites we develop, especially potentially high usage sites, e.g. information only sites, forums, social networking, e-commerce sites, sites addressing a younger user market. A clear overall internet marketing strategy is essential, and it should incorporate the needs of the growing number of mobile and tablet users. Sites where catering for the specific needs of mobile visitors is less important e.g. within certain industrial/commercial sectors will be identified also with, typically, a different technical solution being offered.