Enhancing your website for mobile traffic

Should your business be mobile-enhanced?The short answer is an emphatic “yes,” but since that alone probably has not convinced you, consider the big picture: Mobile usage trends, statistics and predictions are so staggering that disbelief almost seems to be the only sensible reaction.There are currently billions (yes, billions) of mobile users worldwide, and that number is increasing as mobile technology and access becomes more widely available. An increase in mobile subscribers inherently means an increase in mobile web usage, especially given the continuous introduction of more advanced mobile devices in which a web browser is actually one of the more basic, built-in features.The Web exposes a world of information and provides unquestionable convenience (shop from home, plan a vacation, manage your bank account), but there has always been one hindrance that once was easily overlooked but now seems more pervasive and archaic: mobility.A personal desktop computer suffers most from its bulky nature and the fact that it is bound by at least two cords — it has just about everything you need, but it can only be reasonably used in one location.The laptop solves this problem by being small enough to be portable, but at times a laptop can still be too bulky to be lugged around everywhere you go, and it can only be reasonably used when placed on a surface so that your hands are free to use the keyboard.The best solution yet to the problem of mobility has been mobile phones, which are small enough to fit in your pocket or purse and can be used in the palm of your hand.But the problem of mobility is not completely solved by the mere existence of mobile devices and their ability to access the Web, because the experience of mobile Web usage is only as good as websites make it for their visitors.Web design, architecture and user interface work together to attempt to create an easy, convenient and pleasant experience for the visitor. The better the visitor’s experience with the site, the higher the likelihood that visitors will recommend it to others and will make repeat visits themselves.Development teams spend hours upon hours researching minute details about design, architecture and user interface to try to create the best experience possible, so it stands to reason that this fine-tuning should take place for both your business website being visited using personal computers as well as your business web site being visited using mobile devices.Recommended solutionThere are two primary solutions for ensuring your business website is prepped for mobile consumption: • Mobile compatibility check: View and test your business website using various mobile devices to make sure it displays correctly and is able to perform all of its usual functions. If there are any issues that prevent it from functioning the same as it would on a desktop or laptop computer, seek to resolve these issues to be sure you are not inadvertently disabling or discouraging mobile web users from visiting your site. • Mobile-enhanced development: Develop a website that is specifically tailored for consumption by mobile devices. Given the limited screen space on mobile phones, visitors are typically looking for direct routes to specific information or functions within your site. Determine which features are most appealing to your visitors while they are on the go, and emphasize these features with clear and concise wording and navigation.Your chosen solution will probably depend most on budget and time constraints, but the recommended solution is mobile enhanced development because this will allow for the best mobile experience for your visitors. Compatibility itself does not imply convenience or ease-of-use, but rather it merely states that your website can be used on mobile devices (whether visitors will want to is an entirely separate concern); mobile enhanced development states that your site should be used by mobile devices.Perhaps the most compelling reason to seriously consider mobile-enhanced development for your business is the expectation that Web usage on mobile devices will surpass Web usage on personal computers within the next few years. What this means is that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, more than half of all Web traffic may be using mobile devices. What should also be considered with this trend toward mobile usage is that some people are (or will be) using their mobile devices exclusively for accessing the Web. Disregarding the mobile population could translate into disregarding a significant portion of your target market.It is easy to consider mobile Web as being in its infancy due to the feature-rich craze of the latest mobile devices and because mobile enhanced development is not yet widespread, but this is not a reason to put off evaluation of your business website in the mobile arena. If your website is not tailored to meet the expectations and demands of the mobile world, it could face serious challenges of adaptation when expected trends become a reality.Deb Brewer, president of YellowFrog Web & Mobile Productivity and CrystalVision Web & eMarketing Solutions, Waltham, Mass., and Portsmouth, can be reached at 603-433-9559 or db@YellowFrogWeb.com.