What is a “mobile website” and should I have one?

You need to know what you mean by a mobile site before you can decide whether or not you need one. This article takes you a step along that journey.

With an ever-increasing array of mobile devices in use these days - smartphones, tablets, et al - and more being announced all the time, it is impossible to ignore their impact on the online world, but does that mean your website should automatically cater for mobile devices? Should you have a mobile-aware website - one that displays well on and is usable with mobile devices?

There is no simple answer, but there are some questions you should be able to answer that will guide you towards your answer.

Does my target audience use mobile devices to view my website?

Know your users. Check the Analytics for your website and carry out surveys where appropriate to analyse which devices your visitors use. Remember, you are primarily interested in your target audience, not necessarily all of your visitors*. You will probably find that over time more and more visitors are using a variety of mobile devices. Look at the trend and extrapolate into the mid future. Your website should be sympathetic to mobile devices before the proportion of visitors hits a critical mass (you will have to decide where that tipping point occurs).

*there are various ways in which you can determine this, dependent on the purpose of your website. For example, you can set goals and focus on those visitors who reach those goals, which may be as complex as completing a purchase or making an online request, or may be as simple as navigating to certain key pages, or extending their visit beyond a certain time period.

Can my website be tailored for mobile devices?

The catch-all term “mobile” refers to many things: different devices come with different capabilities and mobile devices, impressive as they are, have reduced or different capabilities in a number of ways. Furthermore they are used in different ways and often for different purposes. All of these aspects must be considered when deciding whether a website can or should be designed for use by mobile devices.

Capabilities

  • Bandwidth - in general, connection quality and speeds - even with the advent of 4G / LTE - are slower than for wired / WiFi connections. For a good, fast, experience the website should be lean and remove unnecessary details, such as higher resolution images than are necessary.
  • Physical screen sizes - although high resolution (expressed as pixels-per-inch) they are physically smaller than their laptop/desktop equivalents, limiting the amount of information that can usefully be displayed on a given screen (consider your users' eyesight).
  • Input methods - multi-touch and gestures versus mouse and keyboard bring advantages but also means that some items such as hint text and context-sensitive menus are no longer available.

Usage

As well as these practical differences, it is important to realise that usage tends to be different between various mobile devices and also depends where people are when they access websites.

  • People “on the go” will tend to want specific information quickly and easily - telephone numbers, addresses, product or event details.
  • People with more time available to them or using larger display devices often spend more time on a website, and digest more substantial pieces of information. This might be while sat on a train, or in a cafe, etc.

The point being, the device itself is no guarantor of the type of usage - a combination of the device and the setting tend to dictate their actual usage.

Websites can be designed to address these aspects, by reducing the amount of data delivered, by reordering the data to enable the time-starved visitor to find what they need quickly.

Can I afford to do it, or rather can I not afford to do it?

Once you know whether your target audience requires a website tailored for mobile devices, you need to determine whether you have the budget to make such changes. If your website is a monetising one, i.e. it generates revenue, then you can determine the proportion of revenue coming - or predicted to come - from mobile usage, and base your calculations on that. If your product is less tangible you will need to deduce what it is worth to you or your business to maintain your “traditional” site versus making it accessible to the ever-growing number of mobile users.

Summary

With a little analysis you can determine whether or when your website would benefit from being made more friendly to mobile devices and their users. Tailoring your website for mobile usage can be a complex - and costly - task and after due consideration of a number of aspects you may decide it requires more than a simple re-design. By analysing the benefits and the costs you will be in a far better position to decide whether this transition is right for you.

Want to know more?

Deep Blue Sky provide a range of services from design and development, for mobile or "traditional" websites to hosting and support, business systems, digital consultancy and social media integration.
If you would like to discuss “mobilising” your website or any aspect of our work please contact us online or call 01225 444674.

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