A mobile website primer
People LOVE their smartphones, and judging by news stories about texters falling into a mall fountain or off a pier, perhaps a little too much. But they’re certainly changing how we use the web; by the end of this year, more than half of all internet traffic will happen via mobile devices. Global ecommerce topped the trillion-dollar sales mark this year, with the U.S. leading in spending. According to one study, mobile traffic to ecommerce sites has doubled in the last nine months, with traffic being fueled largely by an increase in iOS users.
It’s not all roses for online retailers, though. Smartphone users buy from sites only a third as often as tablet or desktop users. The #1 reason for this is that it’s harder to buy on a phone – sites aren’t often optimized for mobile use, and customers leave when the checkout process gets hard to use.
“But I don’t sell anything online. What do these numbers have to do with me?”
New research indicates that even if you don’t sell online, lack of a mobile website might be hurting sales.
“Wait, what? How?”
A Google study reports that a full half of people surveyed said that even if they like a business, they are less likely to use them if they don’t have a mobile website. Conversely, if the site is mobile-friendly, 74% say they are likely to return. More than 75 percent of all consumers research purchases online, so even if your business is the brick-and-mortar variety, a mobile website is vital.
“So how do I go mobile, anyway?”
There are three main strategies to “going mobile”; let’s go through these one by one:
- Phone App: An “app” an application downloaded from an App store onto a user’s phone. Chances are you don’t need one of these; not only are they expensive to make, but usually only very large corporations (think Amazon) can convince enough people to download the app to make it worthwhile. An app is also useful for companies that have a large following and has schedules that people will want to access quickly; Lifetime Fitness, for example, has a very useful app for seeing gym schedules. A salon might be another example of an app-appropriate situation.
- Mobile version – a version of your site that shows up when users visit on a phone or tablet. It’s specifically designed for mobile devices (think large, chunky buttons and fewer options). This is a good solution for companies who:
- have a recently updated, pre-existing site that does not translate well into mobile
- have a highly mobile clientele/audience that could benefit from a streamlined mobile interface. Usually, this site is a condensed version of what you would see on a normal site, prioritizing things like contact info, phone numbers, and locations. These are much less expensive than apps to build, and can often be completed quickly.
- Responsive design – If you’re looking to update your site, make your next design responsive. A responsive design is one that adapts to whatever screen size you’re using, whether it’s a big desktop or a tiny smartphone. It’s your entire site, but presented in a mobile-friendly manner.
“Wait, can’t you just go and “responsify” my site?”
It can be done, but it would be highly impractical, and would probably be pretty darn close to the cost of building a new site. Responsive design works through having the site built in such a way that its “parts” – the menu, the text, the pictures – are all separate and able to be shuffled around in a way that looks good, depending on the screen size. To make an existing site responsive, it’s basically a rebuild of the whole thing.
“So what should I do?”
Short answer: If you have a site that’s been updated in the last two years or so, go for a mobile version. If you have a site that’s a bit older and due for an update, now’s the time – just make sure to keep mobile in mind and go responsive. And remember, everyone: don’t text and walk (off a pier).
At ForeFront, we can build everything – from a mobile version of a site to a full-fledged iOS or Android app. Want to talk mobile? Fill out the contact form and we’ll get you everything you need.