When we talk to customers about the idea of a mobile web strategy, many really haven’t thought about it. If you haven’t, that’s completely fair. You have a business to run, customers to keep happy, and employees to keep busy. That’s what we’re for. We’ll take a detailed look at the analytics of your website traffic so we can identify any trends.
Is the Future Already Here?
That analysis may reveal that your users aren’t using mobile, so it doesn’t really make sense to develop a mobile strategy, right? Not necessarily. In many—probably most—cases, your customers have tried to access your site on their mobile, and have found it to be a painful experience. After experiencing mobile sites that are fast and easy to use, people have little patience with sites that aren’t optimized for mobile viewing.
There are also times when we find a second, closely related trend. Users start to view your website on smartphones, but only pull up one or two pages. There is a specific strategy that works well in this case. Setting up a mobile site can be a great way to give your users access to your content in a mobile-friendly way. A good mobile site includes a touch-friendly menu as well as content that is optimized for viewing on small screens and slower networks. A mobile site should also be designed to work the way users are accustomed to working on a mobile device, moving around on your site with swipes rather than buttons.
A separate mobile site is a perfect solution in certain specific situations. But there’s a new option that represents the future of the internet…
The idea that the internet doesn’t have the same constraints as print is often overlooked by web designers and clients. In our quest to make our sites look identical on every computer and in every browser, we strip away from the web its greatest strength: adaptability. The Internet was designed to work on everything. HTML, as a programming language, is infinitely scalable and yet so brilliantly simple in its implementation that any device, big or small, can display its contents. When we artificially impose these spatial constraints onto HTML, we get a mess.
So what’s the fix?
The easiest path to take is to continue to serve content on your site in the same way that you have done for years. This means one of two things for your users.
- They are forced to adapt the way they use the internet on their mobile device.
- They don’t use your site if they don’t have a desktop computer.
While this may be easy for you, it’s definitely not for your users. If you have invested the money in creating and maintaining a website, you obviously want to see a return on your investment. What’s the alternative?
Introducing Responsive Design
Responsive Web Design isn’t a new concept, but it’s a difficult one to grasp, and an even harder one to implement. Luckily, that’s our job. What you need to know is it takes the shackles off your site so that no matter what device your users are viewing your site on, they see all the content. The only thing that changes is how that content is displayed.
The poster-child for this type of design is the new bostonglobe.com. The designers did a fantastic job ensuring that a user gets access to the content, independent of their device type or screen size. Not only is the content laid out in a way that is great for mobile phones, but people using widescreen HD monitors are no longer left with margins making up 60% of their screen real-estate.
Of course, this means more work, and more time, invested in the initial site setup. Four, or even five different designs need to be created to reflect the varying device sizes that will view your site. Small smartphones, large smartphones, tablets, netbooks, small desktop monitors, and large monitors all need to have a different version of the design. Although this means a fairly significant initial investment, making a site responsive yields many benefits:
- Users will always be able to find what they are looking for. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to navigate a site on a touch device that was designed to be navigated with a mouse and keyboard. By designing a site around how they use are using it, you are making it accessible to everyone.
- Users will enjoy using your site much more.
- You are future-proofing your site. Two years ago, who would’ve imagined iPads would be selling at over four million per month? If you were a Windows Mobile or Blackberry user three years ago, you would’ve never thought that mobile internet use would ever overtake desktop.
- You are no longer doing twice the work managing twice the sites. Every update made to one site is reflected on the other.
Since your users are changing the way that they access your content, doesn’t it make sense to change the way you serve that content to them? By ignoring the exponential growth of mobile access to the internet, you are ignoring a large portion of your customer base. It’s time to embrace the inherent strengths of the web and adopt my mantra: “One Web. One Site. Every user. Every device.”