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Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Devices

The popularity of mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets, has changed the way the people use the Internet, and in order to take advantage of this growing trend, it is vital to have a website that is compatible with them. In fact, mobile Internet use is set to surpass traditional PC access of the web within the next year or so, and 60% of the time that mobile users spend on their devices is Internet related1. Mobile Internet users are also very practical with their use of the web with 90% of mobile searches leading to an action and over half of these leading to a purchase2. Smart phones have changed the way that consumers shop with 35% intentionally carrying their smart phone while they are shopping in order to make comparisons online, and 32% have changed their mind about making an in-store purchase after gathering information on their device3.

Businesses have been relying on their websites for many years now and most have developed informative pages filled with the information that their customers are looking for. With these changes to the way that people are using the Internet it has become necessary to change the way that businesses present their online information to be more mobile friendly. The most common practice is to create a mobile website that parallels the main site, that presents the same information in a smaller form. The most recent developments have been responsive websites that can adapt themselves to suit the display that is being used by different users, negating the need to duplicate sites.

The most obvious difference with mobile websites is the size of the screen that is used to display pages. With a 320×480 pixel display, smart phones cannot show the same amount of information as a typical PC screen with a 1024×768 resolution. It also means that less of the page will be displayed ‘above the fold’ on mobile devices than will be seen on PC screens. This makes it all the more important that a mobile website gets right to the point and makes it so features that have little to no information in them, like headers, less valuable to the overall design of the website. Mobile devices don’t display sidebars and online advertisements take up valuable real estate on the screen, especially if they are not directly promoting your own business.

The other, less obvious difference is that navigation of websites on mobile devices is performed via a touch screen instead of a mouse. This makes having a lot of links in the content a bad idea as it is very likely that users will unintentionally activate hyperlinks while trying to scroll through pages or resize the content. It also makes having a navigation bar at the top of the page impractical because it takes up valuable space on the opening screen that users see, as well as making it easy to mistakenly click on a link.

In most instances it is probably best to create websites specifically for your mobile market rather than to try and elegantly downgrade the display of your existing website. For some simpler sites a responsive design will build a flexible website that will adapt itself with little loss of information while retaining a high quality of user experience. The wide variety of different devices with differing levels of compatibility make this a complicated issue, while the evolving nature of the mobile web means that mobile web designers need to stay abreast of all of the latest devices. The importance of being visible to mobile-based Internet customers makes it worth discussing your options with in order to make sure that your business isn’t missing out on the fastest growing demographic of consumers, mobile web shoppers.



3. Our Mobile Planet: Global Smartphone Users, Google, February 2012

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