May 9, 2014

Optimising your website for mobile devices


Smartphone user

These days, you don’t need to go far to see someone tapping away on their smartphone or browsing on their tablet.

Australian ownership of mobile devices is on the increase. Over 70 per cent of Australians own either a tablet or smartphone, with 32 per cent owning both (Deepend, 2014). The Federal Australian Communications and Media Authority identified mobility as a significant feature of everyday online participation, with 7.5 million Australians accessing the internet on mobile devices in June of 2013 alone.

What’s surprising is that Australians aren’t just browsing on their devices on the go. Research shows that 25 per cent of Australians spend more than ten hours surfing the web from home each week.

Consequently, many businesses are now modifying their websites to become functional on mobile devices. It’s crucial to have a website that performs across all devices. Not only does your website have to suit smaller displays, but it also needs to function via a touchscreen. You need to understand that the way people consume content is changing, so you don’t get left behind.

Does your target market use an iPad?

When we think ‘technology’, we think of Gen Y. After all, Gen Y knows it all when it comes to computers and new digital devices. They don’t just consume online content, they interact with it and create their own. So it makes sense that if you are targeting a young audience, you should be making an effort to maximise your business’ online presence as much as possible.

However, because Gen Y’ers are so tech-savvy, it takes far more effort to target a Gen Y audience than just creating a mobile-friendly website. In fact, the clear benefits of having a mobile-enabled website are much more suited to businesses who target Gen X and older consumers! Believe it or not, more than 39 per cent of smartphone users are over the age of 40.

Research suggests that ‘Smartphones are increasingly core to Australians’ communications choices’ and predicts continued growth in the use of smart devices (ACMA 2013). So don’t be fooled, modifying your website to become mobile-friendly is beneficial no matter what generation your target audience is from.

Common problems with non-mobile-friendly sites

If you have never thought of optimising your website for mobile devices before, let’s take a look at some of the common complications with non-mobile-friendly sites.

It is important to remember that when an iPad or iPhone user interacts with website content, they use their hands via a touchscreen – not a mouse and a monitor – so dropdown menus and hover features do not work properly.

Additionally, the different dimensions of an iPhone screen compared to a computer screen means that your site might not display correctly. If your site has several panels, they may appear jumbled up, or they can become difficult to see, zoom in, zoom out and navigate.

Depending on your website’s resolution, text may also be impossible to read. You lose your selling power and the important marketing message that you want customers to read gets lost. By having a mobile-friendly site, you maximise your chances of integral content being easily absorbed.

Lastly, many websites use Flash to jazz up the appearance of their sites. Video content does not always work on smartphones as intended. And the use of multiple images can slow down your site’s loading speed, in which consumers are bound to become impatient and move onto something else.

Making use of the device in every hand

By modifying your website to become quickly and easily accessed via mobile and touchscreen devices, you are more likely to capture the consumer’s attention AND keep it. There are two different ways to do this, either:

  1. a mobile-optimised site, or

  2. responsive design.

Mobile-optimised sites are programmed to appear anytime a visitor accesses your site via a mobile device. They are built completely separate to your original website.

On the other hand, responsive design is the one website that automatically scales and simplifies to suit smaller screens. Such lean design makes it easy for visitors to navigate on the go.

Taking the next step to mobile

Making your website friendly to mobile devices allows you to connect with your target audience, anywhere and anytime.

If you’re considering updating your web presence, consider responsive design rather than a separate mobile-friendly site. Although it could be argued more work goes into its development, it saves you time managing two separate sites in the long run.

Photo: via flickr.

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