Tips on Creating A Mobile Website

If you are facing creating mobile communications, you may be thinking about creating an app. But consider setting up a separate mobile-friendly version of your current website.

In his recent post “Anatomy of a successful mobile website,” Matt Wilson quotes Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology: “Optimizing your website is the first thing you have to do for mobile. It’s sort of the price of admission.”

But easier said than done. Your current website was probably designed for viewing on a 13-inch or larger screen.  Most websites are set up as landscape (horizontal) mode. Phone screens are 5 inches in size, and are often used in portrait (vertical) mode.

Wilson states, “Before you start constructing your mobile website, ask yourself a simple question: Why are people coming here?”

Do Your Homework

An important task to complete before starting work on your mobile web site is to visit a number of existing ones – your competitors, your favorite companies, the big guys like Apple and Amazon. What things are they doing that work for you and that you might incorporate into your mobile site?

An example of a mobile site that has been pared down well, Holtz notes, is the Huffington Post’s, which uses a “crisp, clean” table of contents instead of the cluttered approach of its main site.

Patrick Kerley is a senior digital strategist for Levick Strategic Communications who also blogs. He advises that communicators take a long, hard look at both the content and function of a website as well as the analytics. Find the five to seven activities that a mobile user will most want to use, and make that your mobile site map.

Holtz suggests that you reach out to your audience. “Ultimately, it just comes down to simplifying the ability for people to get to what they’re looking for.”

Don’t delete the other functions available on your website; prioritize them. Remember, Kerley says, that those priorities may not be the same as those for users of the regular website. “Mobile devices offer some unique features a traditional computer doesn’t,” he says. “For example, location-aware devices can provide websites with information that can then be used to customize the user experience.”

Keep It Simple

Stay away from pages that are heavy with text. Remember how your customer will be reading your mobile site. Not everything currently on the main page will fit.

No flash or videos on the mobile version.

Use a short URL – as short as possible.

Use pop-ups for confirmation windows rather than full-page reloads, notes Kerley.

Shanshan Ma of UXmatters suggests giving users multiple-choice click-throughs rather than requiring them to type. Remember the small keyboards on mobile devices, she writes. And users are often in motion—walking, on a train-when on your site.

A blog post by Ma gives multiple examples of mobile websites that prioritize functions. For instance, the Amazon.com mobile site lists only four product categories, whereas the regular website has 13, all of which have subcategories.

Kerley suggests that you definitely should include some sharing tools, however. “Just because a mobile-optimized website should be streamlined, [that] doesn’t mean you should skimp on channels that allow the reader to share through social media, read related content, or sign up for e-mail updates,” he says. “In the case of Facebook, mobile users are twice as active as the average.”

Another thing to keep in mind is how users get to your site. “Don’t make users type a special address to get your mobile website,” Kerley says. “Redirect automatically.”

It’s a website – It isn’t an app

A company’s app “serves a certain, discrete function,” Holtz says. It isn’t a replacement for a website, even if your website and your app share identical content. Why? Because links don’t go to your app. If someone’s browsing another organization’s mobile site and comes across a link to yours, it’s important to have a mobile site for that user to visit, he says.

Plus, Kerley points out, some users will even want to go to your regular website on their mobile devices. You should give them that option, even if your mobile site is top-notch.

To read the full post: Ragan Communications

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