It's no secret that mobile devices are now part of our daily lives. We carry our devices with us like we carry our car keys, and some of us can't go anywhere without them, myself included. We are constantly connected and the numbers show that the mobile web is the new frontier for doing business. In fact, 2014 was cited as the year that mobile internet usage would surpass desktop usage and a recent survey indicates that smartphone ownership in the US has reached nearly 65%. This increasing shift toward a mobile web means users are doing much more on their devices than ever before including searching for products and services. So having a website that isn’t optimized for mobile devices could have a serious impact on mobile user experience, which translates into missed opportunities for conversions. Another interesting factoid from a different survey of those using a mobile device to access the web indicates that: 72% of respondents said it is important to them that websites are mobile friendly. Additionally, 67% said that a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a product or use a service. For all the reasons stated above, it’s clear that mobile friendly sites are a must. More purchases are done on mobile devices than ever, and this is never more important than throughout the holidays when consumers are reaching for the pocketbooks (in this case, their phones) for gifts.
What’s a Mobile Website?
A mobile website is one that is displayed specifically to users on mobile devices like iPhones and Android phones and often times tablets as well (depending on the type of mobile site). There are several types of mobile sites but to keep things simple we are only going to talk about the three that are most widely used
Don’t worry we won’t get too technical with the explanations (oh, and we’ll include some examples to help you understand the differences too). Seeing them in action is the key to understanding the differences between each.
This is the minimal approach to a mobile website. Basically, mobile-friendly means that nothing breaks or fails to load when the site is visited on a mobile device, hence the name mobile-friendly. A mobile-friendly website provides the same experience to a mobile user and a desktop user. Typically these sites require a mobile user to pinch and zoom as well as scroll to read content and interact with site elements like navigation and buttons. The experience with this type can be like viewing a site through a porthole or small window which can sometimes frustrate users. This approach works well for informational websites that really don’t have a need for a more tailored mobile experience for their users. Often this approach is taken when project budget or timeline constraints rule out other options. Example: Blood Bank of Alaska. Notice how this site loads in the mobile device exactly as it does on the desktop only much smaller. To read the content or navigate the site a user would need to pinch and zoom in.
A dedicated mobile website provides a more tailored experience formatted to display on a specific mobile device. This type is almost always a different design and in many cases it requires an alternate content structure. Typically the content on this type of site is minimized to contain only the most necessary content making the site very easy to navigate. This approach works very well for franchises and service related businesses because a pared down site is perfect for providing specific information or functionality that a mobile user would need, such as location details, hours of operation, and contact information. Example: Mwcleaners.com. Notice how the two sites are very different in their design and the mobile website is pared down to just the essential content.
Responsive websites use a development technique that allows the content to respond to the dimensions of the device being used. Responsive design is often referred to as 'liquid' or 'fluid' design because content morphs to fill whatever screen it is being viewed on. Responsive sites can actually scale images and content sections based on device width. This type of site eliminates any need for the user to pinch or zoom to interact with content. Looking at an example, resizing your browser window actually changes the pixel ratio of the images within the frame. Example: Aldridge.com. When you visit this site, scale your browser window and watch how the content responds and adjusts to fit the size of the browser window.
Considerations Before Choosing
Now that you know the difference between the types of mobile websites, it’s time to think about your mobile strategy. Many considerations should be taken when trying to decide which type fits your users, things like current mobile device experience, amount of mobile traffic, target market analysis and content strategy. Insert shameless plug here… Forthea can help you with your mobile strategy! There are some people here that would love to crunch the numbers and give you a detailed report on your current site traffic and help you out with making the best mobile site for your specific needs. Just give us a call; we look forward to helping you formulate the best mobile strategy for your business. If you're looking to the future, you might enjoy some of our other more responsive web tips and advice including why the future of mobile-friendly web design is now here in the present. Contact us today with any questions!