Optimize for Mobile Devices: A Heartfelt Plea

I have a bone to pick with you web developers, business owners, and bloggers out there.  Many of you don’t have mobile-friendly sites.  Why is this?

Even back when I was living in the dark ages and was not using a mobile device myself, I understood that there were plenty of people around who were.  My sites all have a mobile version.  Granted, I’m running WordPress-powered blogs for the most part, so getting the plug-in wasn’t exactly hard or anything.  I did it because I know that when you’re bored, reading short pieces appropriate to a blog is a common way for the wired to entertain themselves.

Don’t think it’s just for blogging, though.  More and more, people will be using mobile devices to search for information as they’re going about their day.

Who Needs a Mobile-Friendly Site?

  • Restaurants

Every one of us has looked around, at our friends and voiced that time-honored phrase, “Where do you want to go for dinner?”  We don’t always ask this question in front of a computer or phone book.  Make sure that you have a mobile-friendly page that shows your location, hours open, menu and a general idea of prices.  It’ll make it more likely for your customers to pick you.

  • Bloggers

Yes, that theme you designed is very pretty.  Guess what? I can’t see it on a screen smaller than the palm of my hand, and I’m not visiting your site because it’s pretty.  If I read a blog regularly, it’s because I find what you have to say entertaining, informative, or more likely both!   Have a mobile version.  And if you’re worried about ad revenue, don’t.  On your mobile version, you can set it so that the ads show interspersed with the text or at the bottom of the screen.

  • Anyone that sells things over the Internet

Amazon has a mobile-friendly site.  Big department stores do, too.  If you sell products online, you really want your potential customers to be able to make an impulse purchase from their mobile phones.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on a site that’ll be friendly to your mobile customers,  and you want to be able to make it easy for them to make that impulse purchase.

Let’s assume you’re convinced.

What makes a website mobile-friendly?

  • Vertical Design

Mobile devices generally have a screen that is narrower than it is wide.   The user will be scrolling down a great deal to get to content.  Make sure the most useful content is right at the top – rather like going for page rank on Google.

  • Minimized clicks

Make sure that your user doesn’t have to click on too many internal links for the site to be useful.  However, resist the temptation to put all of the content on one page.

  • Minimized textual input

Typing on a mobile is a pain.  Make sure you’re not forcing your user to fill out too many forms.

  • Minimized Image Use

Think icons here.  Don’t integrate the image into the usefulness of the site!

  • Good Content organization

Make sure you sit down and draw out not only a generalized design, but make some flow charts about how your user is likely to navigate the site.  Test this with people who are not web developers until you can get a usage flow that makes sense and is fairly intuitive.

Remember that your main site, the one that people will be browsing on larger screens, can be considerably more elaborate.  What you want here is a version of the site built specifically for your mobile user.  If you’re considering a new website, make sure that you get a designer that understands these principles.

 

Author: Noël Figart

Noël Figart is a computer applications instructor, technical writer and editor.

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