The mobile phone has gone through many changes over the years. From the 8 lb. brick Zack Morris used on “Saved by the Bell” in the early 90’s to the smart phones of today, the transformation of mobile technologies is in constant evolution. The way we use our mobile phones has also changed dramatically. I would dare to say that actually using them to place calls has taken at the very least the middle seat to texting and surfing the web. As surfing the web on our phones becomes a more popular past time, another trend follows closely behind — the development of mobile sites. Deciding when and how to implement a mobile site strategy can be a scary task, but it doesn’t have to be. In hopes of dispelling some of that fear, I’m outlining a few key things to consider when developing your mobile sites.
The functionality of modern phone browsers has evolved to be very similar to that of standard computers. Because of that fact, your site may look great on your phone with little or no added effort. In fact, most of the better smartphones have no problem displaying standard sites. The problem comes in trying to make the site functional for an entire market subset. There are a lot of phones, screen sizes and operating systems on the market and in use, you want to be able to reach your audience no matter what system or model they might have. That essentially means catering to the least common denominator.
To make the process less intimidating and less expensive, start small. Perhaps your site is large and it’s not necessary to convert the entire site immediately. Take it in strategic pieces. Think about the content and pages most visited on your site, or better yet check your site analytics and find out exactly what content most people are seeking. Then, convert those pages or content to a mobile site and monitor the results. Another option for testing the mobile site arena is with a promotional landing page. A site tied to a specific marketing campaign or 2D barcode system is typically less complex and much smaller than the overall site, making it a great first option for mobile site development.
This brings up another point of consideration — 2D barcodes. The whole point of 2D barcodes is to enable prospects to access your website or other relevant information quickly and easily from their smart phone. Therefore, if you are using 2D barcodes, you should have a mobile site strategy tied to it.
There are several easy options available for creating your mobile site. As the trend and technology ventures off in that arena, more and more services are available to convert existing sites to mobile sites and even provide tracking information. But you don’t have to rely on a service either. Many blog platforms have plugins for mobile sites. There are hundreds of themes and plugins through these blog platforms that are inexpensive and easy to use and have simple plugins for mobiles sites. Many of them are even free! Granted, the low cost brings with it some limitations in layout, design and other custom functionality.
Once you decide where to start and pick the platform or system, there are a few simple rules of thumb to keep in mind when creating the site.
When it comes to the design keep it simple. Now remember, I said simple not boring. You can certainly have graphics and images, just use them more sparingly than you would on a regular site. The more graphic laden the site the slower it will function, use the graphics and photos you need most to convey your message.
Also pay close attention to your navigation setup. Organize it in the most user friendly way possible, make the buttons or the click area around them larger. Keep in mind that not all phone browsers will have back buttons.
Limit scrolling to one direction — preferably vertical. It’s often frustrating to have to scroll in both directions on a standard browser and that frustration is amplified on a mobile browser. Touch phones alleviate some of the hassle with pinching, flicking and swiping capabilities, but remember not all smart phones are touch screen.
On the mobile site, always give the option to visit your standard site, and vice versa. A simple link in the footer should suffice, and it offers your prospects every possible opportunity to get the information they seek in the format they want. If they have one of those really really smart phones, navigating your standard site may be easy and provide them with all the cool graphics and functionality familiar to them.
Just as technology continues to change, we as marketers need to adapt and evolve in the way we reach our prospects. With a generation being raised via texting, Facebook and mobile phones, thinking we can ignore that arena would be a big mistake. Take a step and experiment with mobile sites. It’s only when we jump in with both feet that we really learn what will work for our company and market.