Should my website cater for mobile devices?

With such a vast array of mobile devices in use these days it is becoming hard to ignore their impact on the online world, but does that mean your website should automatically cater for mobile devices? Not necessarily.

Now, the perceived wisdom is that everyone should have either a dedicated mobile website, catering to all manner of mobile devices, or that their main website should be adaptive and display well on all devices. You would expect a Digital Agency to automatically follow suit, and to recommend the same, wouldn’t you? But Deep Blue Sky look at each client and their needs individually, and recommends what is appropriate, not what is fashionable.


Why might I stay with a ‘traditional’ website?

A website that works well on mobile devices becomes increasingly important if your target audience are predominantly using mobile devices.

However, not everyone uses mobile all the time - despite what you may hear in the popular press - and small screens are not the answer to everything. It might be, for example, that the information your site conveys is best viewed on a larger screen or that is it most usefully used in conjunction with other details, either screen or paper-based.

Audience

Consider your target audience - as distinct from all the visitors to your website - i.e. those with whom you really want to engage. What devices are they using? If they aren’t predominantly using mobile devices then you can continue to focus your efforts on the main means by which they access your website.

Need

Many modern mobile browsers and the devices on which they operate are very good at displaying a website and allowing the user to easily zoom and pan. Whilst not always being the best way to navigate and browse through a website, it is certainly a usable option. If your website is therefore already acceptable for using on a mobile device then you don’t need to divert budget for something that isn’t crucial to your business.


To determine whether I might benefit from a mobile site, what should I consider?

There is far more to a successful mobile site than meets the eye, and here we consider some of the aspects that should be borne in mind:

Screen sizes

There are a great many different screen sizes, with more arriving in the marketplace all the time. It is neither feasible nor practical to produce variants of a website that fit each screen size like a glove, so the answer is to ensure your website considers the content first, and shows this off to best effect, whatever the display dimensions.

Input methods

Most mobile devices have different input methods to the traditional desktop/laptop with its keyboard, pointing devices and context-sensitive menus. A website is not just about display, but about interaction. Content, ordering of content, size and location of links, are all important and may vary on a mobile site from the traditionally-viewed website.

Content

When you consider that many mobile users have a slower communications link than Wired/WiFi users, the amount of content - notably rich content such as images, audio and video - to be delivered to the visitor may need to be varied. Those with longer memories will remember dialup versus broadband, when website developers had to bear in mind that not all visitors were using broadband and had to decide whether to cater for the lowest denominator. The same differences are with us today in mobile versus broadband as not all mobile visitors yet have access to high speed 4G / LTE connection speeds. Thus a website delivered to mobile users often has to consider delivering reduced content - volume, that is, not quality.

Cost

It is not a trivial task to either refactor, or build, a properly mobile-optimised site, whether from an existing site or from scratch, and anyone who indicates otherwise should be viewed with a degree of caution.

Design

When the context of mobile usage is borne in mind it becomes apparent - although not always obvious - that the design and layout of a mobile site may often vary from the more traditional "full screen" design. An uncluttered and easy-to-use interface, providing the most relevant information with clarity, is essential for mobile users. These are factors that will be considered by any expert web designers including those at Deep Blue Sky.


Summary

Mobile-optimised websites are without doubt a growth sector, and increasingly more is being done online using mobile devices, but this alone does not mean your website should cater for mobile devices. Understand who uses your website and how, and make a considered decision - which may be to design your site for mobile users, or may not. Don’t be pushed into something that may not be right for you.

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