When they asked me to write a blog post on mobile websites I thought they were crazy. I mean, when was the last time I actually developed a mobile app or website? Oh yeah, never.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’ve spent so much time on my phone, I am actually very well informed and can help you and your company start off on the right foot in the mobile space. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Tony is a humble guy. He is one of our top optimization research analysts, working with The New York Times among other Research Partners.)
And, I’m sure many marketers may be attracted to the idea of going mobile. Especially since, according to the Nielsen Company, smartphone users are projected to account for more than 50 percent of U.S. wireless subscribers by the end of the year.
So, if you’re one of those marketers thinking about creating a dedicated mobile site, this is my beginner’s take on what it takes to create a successful one before you take the leap …
Step #1: See how your current page looks on mobile platforms
I’m sure you or someone you know has an iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc. If you don’t have each of these devices handy, there are some really cool tools that you can use to see how your website would actually look and behave on just about any mobile device.
Both Firefox and Safari offer easy ways to change your user agent and see what your site would look like through other browsers. For Firefox, download Chris Pederick’s User Agent Switcher. You can find more mobile browsers in the comments section.
For Safari, just enable Developer Mode (Preferences, Advanced, check the “Show Develop” box) and select your user agent from the Develop menu. While this isn’t a perfect representation of your site, once you shrink your browser window to the size of your mobile device it’ll be very close impersonation and plenty to get you started.
This is really going to help us answer some common questions you encounter while going mobile such as:
- Is the website too cluttered?
- Is it easy to use?
- Are the buttons clickable with my big fingers?
- Is it easy to find the best and most relevant content?
- In the end…is it good? Heck, is it even adequate?
I’m going to assume that here, for most of you, what’s going to happen is that you’ll realize it’s not really optimized for a mobile platform. This is to be expected. You’ve spent a lot of time optimizing your site over the past few years and you’re just now looking towards mobile, right?
Step #2: (Really) understand your target audience
This includes who they are, and what they come to look at. Some of the key statistics you’ll want to pay close attention to include:
- How many visitors come from a mobile device?
- What is the mobile device of choice?
- What pages do they most frequently visit?
- What is the top content overall, and top content immediately preceding a successful call to action?
These questions will be integral when you actually begin planning out your mobile site. You’ll want to have an internal discussion with Sales and Customer Service about your target audience. You’ll also want to use your analytics to determine what people currently use your site for.
There are plenty of tools out there that can give you these statistics, but the tool of choice for many companies is Google Analytics because it’s a free tool with relatively quick implementation, a robust support network, and the ability to collect a plethora of great data. A properly set-up Google Analytics account can get you most of the information you desire for free, you just need to know where to look.
Step #3: Assemble a mock-up mobile page that meets your visitors’ expectations
This is the step where you’ll be happy you looked at the most highly viewed content in the site and what visitors do immediately preceding the call to action. This will be your most relevant content, and content you want to ensure you include while making it easy to find.
On a personal note, please be sure to give people an easy-to-find button where they can be switched to the desktop version of the site. Nothing is more frustrating than when you want to see the desktop version of a site but keep getting automatically redirected to the mobile site.
I personally run into that problem quite often. I play a lot of Fantasy Sports, and when I wrote this it was football season. I use ESPN and when I get redirected to the mobile version of the site I can easily see my team and league, but can’t easily get to a lot of the research and analysis that I’m trying to find. You know, all that nitty gritty stuff you’re looking through on Sunday morning, while you’re setting your final lineup. I always had to hunt for a way into the desktop version of the site to get what I really needed and it was remarkably frustrating. Sorry, just needed to vent for a minute.
Step #4: Decide if the benefits outweigh the costs of development
Now that you’ve taken these simple steps, you need to decide how, or even if, you should make a mobile version of your website. There is no one right answer; it comes down to a cost/benefit analysis that takes into account your overall business strategy.
Don’t just jump into creating a mobile site because it’s the next hot thing — or because the CEO just got an iPhone and loves playing with his new toy. You must determine if the benefits of building a mobile site, or redesigning your current site, outweigh the expenditure to truly get results.
Now that you’ve made the decision whether or not to proceed with a mobile site, what should it look like? My time is up, so we’ll have to cover that next time in part two.
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