Don’t get left behind by the mobile revolution

In the fast moving world of web marketing and design it is often a struggle for businesses and organisations to work out which latest industry innovations are game-changers and which are merely desirable extras.

If you think optimising your website for mobile falls in the latter category then it is time to think again. This year it is predicted that smartphones and tablets will supersede desktops as the most commonly used devices to access the web in the US, a trend that is being mirrored in the UK. And last month, Google finally confirmed what industry analysts have been predicting for some time, namely that they will be penalising websites that are not mobile-friendly in search rankings.

So what are the issues with websites that are not optimised for mobile?

Tablets and Smartphones all feature browsers that allow the user to surf the internet, but due to the limited screen space available a standard desktop site simply does not fit. Most smartphone and tablet users will have experienced the frustration of having to scroll repeatedly across or up and down a site, zooming in and out to find the function they are looking for while the rest of the content is rendered invisible. This is exacerbated, particularly for smartphone users, by the lack of a mouse to hover over certain functions such as drop-down menus.

Simply making a desktop site mobile compatible is not a complete solution either. Most users will abandon a search if a site takes more than 5 seconds to load, and the average sized website already pushes that patience threshold to the limit. Factor in larger sites, sites that feature lots of images and variations in network coverage and you are likely to leave your audience – and potential customers – frustrated. With a myriad of online companies offering different advice and off-the-shelf packages it can be difficult to tell which is the best route to take.

At Optix Solutions we pride ourselves on getting to know our customers’ businesses and then, and only then, designing bespoke online marketing and web design solutions that truly meet specific needs and budgets.

There are inevitably short-term cost implications in gearing your website up to make the most of mobile, but the benefits of ensuring clients and customers can access your site via the platform of their choice make it an investment well worth making in the longer-term.

If you are still in any doubt about the importance and growth of mobile, just take a look at these two contrasting picture of crowds gathered in St Peter's Square, Rome, for the announcement of the last two popes:

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Why you can’t ignore mobile web in 2013

The mobile web rapidly expanded to the point where it cannot be ignored any longer. This transition has caught many organisations by surprise, and good advice is hard to find.

We’d like to help dispel the mobile web myths and address many of the questions you may have.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"] St. Peter’s Square over 8 years, Source: NBC News Facebook[/caption]

What is mobile web?

Tablets and Smartphones all feature browsers that allow the user to surf the internet. Limited screen estate means that the typical “desktop site” cannot fit within the device efficiently. Other limitations include the iPhone’s inability to render Flash or certain “mouse hover” effects (due to lack of a mouse).

Is mobile web usage really that high?

In 2012, mobile web traffic accounted for 20% of all web traffic in the US. In 2013, it is projected that mobile devices will take over desktops as the most commonly used device to access the web.

Source: Kissmetrics infographic http://blog.kissmetrics.com/mobile-is-changing-business/?wide=1

Statistics may vary by industry. If you’re wondering how much of your site traffic is from mobile devices, you can check through your Google Anayltics account (don’t forget to include Tablets!). Chances are mobile traffic will continue to account for a large percentage of your visits, and that number will only increase in the next few years.

What are the cost implications?

The short term costs of optimising your site for mobile are far outweighed by the long term gains.

A mobile optimised site will ensure that you are able to reach potential clients and customers on the platform of their choice, ensuring that your message is delivered effectively to them.

Whether you choose to “go mobile” now or wait another year is a matter of choice. However, if you are in the process of developing a new website we strongly urge you to consider a mobile site. For a small amount more you can build a mobile optimised website alongside an initial build, rather than pay a premium to optimise your site at a later date.

What are my options?

Optimising Desktop Site For Mobile

Depending on the structure of your current site, chances are it may already work on mobile. The most common problem we see for optimisation of existing sites is “drop down menus.” Most menus require a mouse to hover over, in order to drop down. Since mobile devices do not have a mouse, changes need to be made. In addition to drop down menus, problems arise from flash or elements designed as “pop ups.”

Simple Compatibility Isn’t Enough

The average website has now increased to 1mb in filesize. Many sites out there are significantly more, with some of the more image-heavy ones exceeding 6mb!

As we showed you, most users will abandon a site if it doesn’t load within 5 seconds. The UK average speed for 3G is 1.5mbps, which puts a 1mb site exactly at a 5 seconds download time. If you also factor in network coverage and time taken to render elements, this could take a lot longer to load on a mobile device using the 3G network.

In addition to poor loading times, compatibility doesn’t ensure mobile usability. Calls to action need to be large and easily clicked with a finger, content needs to be displayed in a way that it is easy to scroll, and the entire site needs to behave more efficiently due to lower performance of mobile devices in comparison to desktop computers.

The Ideal Approach

There are two (well, actually…three) options you can use to build a mobile optimised site that are user friendly and work for you.

Responsive

You’ll hear a lot of people mentioning responsive– It’s a current trend in web design that we’re seeing used more and more, but it carries its limitations.

The exact technicalities of what responsive is, are disputable, but generally it means reformatting and repositioning the same content to different screen resolutions

The advantages of responsive design are that it is cheaper from a design perspective, and also content on the site is loaded from only one point of entry, rather than two separate platforms.

The big disadvantage of this however, means that you still have to load in the same content (meaning page load times suffer, see above about abandonment rates).

Design elements will also suffer, as the page has to be kept simple, due to load time.

We’d recommend Responsive design if your site needs little written content, and has a simplistic approach to branding.

Building a responsive site is relatively easy, and many agencies will recommend it as a result.

Adaptive

An Adaptive site is built separately from a desktop site, and structure/content must be loaded separately onto each in most cases.

In some cases, some companies will build a desktop site, a “tablet site” (when we say this we mean the typical tablet dimensions of the iPad and not the smaller tablets such as the iPad mini) and then finally a mobile site. It is an expensive solution, and with screen dimensions on mobile devices changing all the time, can be an inefficient as well.

The Perfect Solution?

We believe that the perfect solution is a combination of responsive and adaptive, with one version of your site for desktop and laptops, and another “responsive” version for mobile that scales between smart phones and tablets. The desktop version would be more visual whereas the mobile version might have a more simplified and streamlined design.

If you use a Content Management System, you don’t necessarily have to enter the content twice. Systems can be built in such a way that you can use the same content for both, with the site handling all the complexities of how to display the content optimised for mobile.

Only certain, more complicated content such as large tables may need to be laid out differently when it comes to mobile.

The BBC approaches it this way on its newer sites and has received nothing but positive feedback.

This way, you create an experience tailored to the habits of mobile users, but don’t necessarily add considerable cost to the development of your site, providing of course mobile is considered when you’re building your site in the first place (retrospectively building it is still possible but can be a little more tricky).

Mobile Web is here to stay, and we hope we’ve provided you with some useful information to help you navigate the murky waters of mobile sites. As always, we’re here to help you with any mobile web needs you might have, and would love to hear your thoughts.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you decide which option is right for you.

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