Two important questions about mobile website design:
- what is a mobile website?
- is it time my small business website supported mobile devices?
Every small business with a website should be asking these questions and I will try to help you answer them, or at least get you thinking about them! First, let’s consider the state of the “mobile web” right now.
The Mobile Web Is Here And Growing
Think about this; there are 4 times as many mobile phones than there are PCs in the world.
Over 7 million people in the UK now use their mobile to access the Internet.
The thirst for knowledge doesn’t stop when you step away from your computer, it continues on your mobile device. In the past two years, mobile search traffic has grown five-fold. One of the technologies driving this growth is speech recognition. With Google’s Voice Search, you don’t have to type on a tiny touchscreen. You can just speak your query and the answer is on the way. As the quality of searching by speaking has increased, so has usage: in the past year alone, Google’s Voice Search traffic has grown six-fold, and every single day people speak more than two years worth of voice to our system.
The take up of smartphones has exploded in the last few years. At the forefront of this has been Apple’s iPhone. However, sales of Android based phones now outstrip iPhones. In the US, Android now accounts for about 33% of the smartphone market, while iPhone’s are 25%.
The lastest US research suggests that by Christmas 2011, there will be more smartphones in use than ordinary phones. The UK tends to follow these American trends, so it is likely that the same will happen here during 2012.
“Is there an App for that?”
Downloadable “apps” have been popularised by Apple’s iPhone. There are also apps for Android and for Blackberry mobile phones. An app built for an iPhone will not work on an Android mobile and visa-versa. This means that to cover all types of mobiles, a business would need to commision at least 3 different apps.
A growing number of mobile phones and all smart phones can browse the Internet without the use of an app. This means that a single mobile website is viewable by each and every mobile that can surf the Internet.
What Is A Mobile Website?
The monitors we use for desktops and laptops have grown and grown. An entry level laptop has a 15.5″ screen running with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. This is vast compared to the screen of a mobile phone.
A mobile website is one built to be viewed on a screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels. Here are two screens shots of The Guardian website: desktop and mobile versions.
The articles that are displayed have the same contents and headlines but the mobile website has been stripped down to the most important stories and mostof the pictures have gone. The pictures that remain are very small.
Navigation is carried out with a finger (for touch phones) or via the mobile keyboard. People surfing on their mobile do so in short bursts, they are not looking to read a lot of text, they are looking for information.
Here are EasyJet’s conventional and mobile websites.
The hundreds of choices available on a desktop website do not work on a mobile website. The number of choices needs to fit on the screen so hundreds have to be pared down to just two!
Information that is presented on a mobile website must be carefully considered to see if it is relevant to somebody surfing on a mobile. For example, eBookers (the flights + hotel booking website) have found 70% of hotel bookings made from a mobile are for a room for that night.
Once you know this kind of information about people who surf on a mobile, you can restrict what they see so that it is probably what they would want. For eBookers, once Hotels had been selected as a category, then only those hotels in the same city with availability that night are shown to the surfer. They can always choose a different city or a different day but the 70% of people who want to make a booking for that night are only a single click or tap away from making a booking.
Mobile websites are becoming more and more important to business. So will you take the step now and ‘go mobile’ or if you think mobile websites are a waste of time? Will you be waiting for the competition to do it first?
If you have a view please leave a comment. [Ed: Patrick is our first guest poster, so go on, encourage him!]