2011 is being touted as the year when mobile technology really comes to the fore. So what are the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of mobile we design? Which web development features re mobile friendly and which are not? Lastly and mostly importantly, how do you find out how mobile web design could work for your business?
Advantages of mobile web design
- A well developed mobile website can mean an increased range of web visitors to your web site, happy to be able to use your site to full effect and that it functions in the right way.
- If your business targets people on the move (e.g. a restaurant or hotel), you’ll most likely pick up business with good mobile web development.
- Even if your business isn’t a natural fit with mobile technology, giving thought to good mobile web design can present your company as a professional, cutting edge outfit which embraces new technology.
- Developing for mobiles can expand your brand and product beyond your website into apps and software programs. The possibilities with mobile technology are growing by the day.
Disadvantages of mobile web design
- You have to know what you’re doing. If done properly, there shouldn’t be any disadvantages to having a mobile web designed site. However, there are a few potential pitfalls which might annoy your mobile customers and have a detrimental effect on your search engine rankings for your web site as a whole.
- Things are always changing. You can’t expect to invest in your mobile web design and leave it there. Mobile web technology is growing and expanding. When a new smartphone comes on the market, you need to be prepared to grow and change to meet the new demands.
- It may not be appropriate for your business. As with any investment of time or money, you need to decide whether the ROI merits the effort you will put in. Businesses don’t all fit one mold, so you need to do your research before embarking on developing a mobile site to ensure that your expectations of the returns are met.
How to go about developing your mobile site – some of the characteristics of mobile web design and development
1) Check your stats
Before developing a mobile site, your first port of call is Google Analytics or similar, where you can identify sources of traffic to your website. Google Analytics lets you know what proportion of your visitors are using mobiles to access your website and which specific devices people are using. This will help you decide whether it is worth allocating resources to building a mobile web site for your business and which devices to use when testing your website design.
2) Create a mobile stylesheet
The best way to manage a mobile site is to use a different CSS stylesheet to the one you use for your browser pages. This technique is preferable to any other because it avoids duplicating content within your site (which can damage your search engine rankings) and makes it easier to update your site in one fell swoop.
3) Avoid duplicating content
Google can penalize your website for having lots of pages with the same content, so if you do decide to develop a different set of webpages for mobile phones, make sure that the content is specifically different from that for your browser website. If you need a full reference of dos and don’ts from Google, Webmaster Tools is a good place to start:
4) Keep images to a minimum
You need to work to your lowest common denominator and you don’t know what connection speeds you are dealing with on smart phones. If you can do so, keeping to a few small images will provide a more enjoyable experience for your customers visiting by phone.
5) No Flash… end of
Depending on the nature of your business, you may wish to develop an app. An app is a small program which is either free or can be purchased (the usual price for an iPhone app is £0.80). Apps sit as icons on the iPhone or other smartphone, so as well as providing a useful service to your web visitor, they are a great ongoing advertisement for your website and business.
6) Test it out
Don’t have a smartphone? Opera has a great mobile emulator which allows you to see how your mobile site will look to your visitors by phone: http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/opera-mobile-emulator/. With the Opera mobile emulator, you can try out different phones, vary screen sizes and resolutions and test out touch and keypad phones.
Happy mobile web development!