The explosion of smart phones and tablet devices onto the market has meant that for businesses with an internet presence, having a mobile strategy has gone from a 'nice to have' feature to being an integral part of an online businesses strategy.
Mobile internet browsing is supposed to present convenience to your customers, but for many, it is often a frustrating experience when not implemented properly (or at all). It is essential therefore, to ensure you give your target mobile browsing customers the best experience. You can do this in one of three ways - through a standalone mobile site, an optimised responsive site and/or through a mobile app, depending on how you want to connect with your target audience.
Standalone Mobile site:
A separate stand alone mobile site is a good choice for a lot of companies, often it's a duplicate of your main site, but stripped down to a visual minimum so users on the move have the smallest possible download.
Wired.com's standalone mobile site
- A site tailored exactly for a mobile user's needs can lead to a better user experience
- Nothing needs to be installed on your device, it will work on any mobile device out of the box
- Optimised for the smallest download possible, users with data-caps on their devices will thank you
- Any changes to the non-mobile site need to be duplicated in the mobile site, since essentially you are running two separate sites, this can drive up costs
- If not implemented properly, having duplicated content on two sites could affect your site rankings and search engines could be confused about which site to show in SERPs
- A standalone mobile site is intended to cater for a huge amount of devices with a wide range of screen sizes, finding a way to display information for all of these often means settling on a design for the lowest common denominator, since the site doesn't adapt to the screen of the device
The main issue with a standalone mobile site, is that you essentially have to maintain two websites, which can prove to be expensive and time consuming. A solution to this would be to have a Responsive Design website.
Responsive Design has been getting a lot of attention lately as it solves the issue of companies having to have a standalone mobile site alongside a website. The concept of the Responsive Design technique is simple and effective. It adjusts a websites' pages based on the platform which it is being viewed on, be it a desktop, PC, smartphone or an iPad. Through smart code in the websites' style sheets, the Responsive Design technique adapts the size and resolution of the website pages so the end user can experience the web page in the best possible way. This negates the need for companies having to run a duplicate mobile-friendly version alongside their actual website.
Information Architect's responsive site
- The cheapest option in the long run
- Your site will be 'future proof' to all new mobile devices as they are released
- When you add new content to your website, it is automatically ready for all mobile devices
- No need to duplicate content from your standard site, like you would have to do if you have a standalone mobile site, as your standard site IS your mobile site
- You can't alter information architecture of the site so it may not be optimal for mobile
- A relatively new technique so training existing staff or seeking out experienced skills is a prerequisite
- You are essentially downloading the desktop webpage version with removed elements. Hence the size of the page being downloaded isn't as small as it could be. This can cause problems with both page load speed times and mobile bandwidth usage, which is often capped
For those who already have an optimised site, mobile apps are the most effective way of connecting with your target audience, although they are generally the most expensive option.
Mobile apps, are applications which mobile users can download to their mobile devices. They present users with a convenient way of accessing the information they want - when they want it. More importantly they allow brands another platform on which to connect with their target customer. When created well, mobile apps can be extremely successful in driving traffic to your website.
Amazon's mobile app
- You can tailor the experience precisely to a specific device, giving the best possible experience for your end users
- App-icon on users' phones is an excellent form of advertising for any company
- Lots of consumers browse app stores looking for things to install, so it's a great way of finding customers who might not have discovered you via other means
- Expensive to develop. You'll need to pay specialised programmers to create them
- Apps aren't cross-platform; you will need to create new apps for Android, IOS and any other future app stores, driving up costs
- People have to find the app in the app store and install your app. Many won't bother or don't like installing apps on their devices
- You still additionally need to have a mobile friendly site for those consumers who won't/can't install apps on their device
Whichever direction you wish your mobile strategy to take, make sure you start setting it up now! Give yourself enough time to trial run your mobile site, so that by the time the Christmas frenzy starts, your mobile site works without a hitch and can handle the substantial number of mobile searches expected for December 2012.