The first iPhone was introduced in June 2007. Today, many business owners find it hard to remember how we operated in a world without this technology. Smartphone adoption has been rapid. Less than 10 years later, website traffic analysis company StatCounter reported that mobile internet usage exceeded desktop usage in October 2016.
Understanding why mobile-friendly sites are important and how to embrace this change is integral to business success in today’s marketplace. Although it is a common best practice to hire a marketing or web professional to support your web presence, it is possible that you can tackle this yourself. Either way, this article should help you understand and navigate the mobile website realm.
Why is a mobile website so crucial for my business?
In the February/March 2018 edition of Hardwood Floors, Katrina Olson called attention to the fact that a majority of consumers form impressions of a company before ever contacting the service provider (Content Marketing: It’s All About the Consumer). Imagine you are a customer searching for hardwood flooring installers on your smartphone or tablet. The first site you find is hard to navigate without pinching, zooming, and scrolling from side to side. Then imagine the next website in the search results is built for mobile devices and is easily navigated. Remembering that you are a consumer – not realizing the possible value of any of the content on the site or the credentials of the service provider – which company would you pick?
In addition to being user-friendly, it may be useful to know that Google is beginning to rank search results based on how mobile-friendly a website is.
No one knows the exact set of rules Google uses to provide search results, so it is unknown how much weight they give mobile versus desktop sites. What we do know is that Google is in business to always deliver relevant results to users, and they have deemed that mobile sites are more relevant to today’s internet user. Google’s search results take mobile readiness into serious consideration. With more than half the internet traffic being from a mobile device, who can blame them?
If you still are not sure how imperative a mobile site is to the marketability of a website, take a quick look at the analytics/metrics for your website. These statistics should show you how many visitors use mobile devices or a desktop computer to visit the site. Note that tablets should be included in the mobile category, but they are a small percentage. In the U.S., internet usage is generally divided 50 percent phones, 10 percent tablets, and 40 percent desktop (these are loose stats and vary from month to month).
How can I make my website mobile friendly?
The first action to take, whether you believe your site is mobile friendly or not, is to test it. You can borrow a device from a friend, but better yet, Google provides a basic tool to test this: goo.gl/vUJWvj.
Additional reporting, including views of your site on various screen sizes and devices, is available through a free tool at ready.mobi. Once you know how the site performs, further action can be taken either by a consultant or yourself.
The quickest and easiest way to have a mobile-friendly site is to use a website hosting company that offers templates for websites that are already mobile friendly. This template will form the foundation of the website, keeping all pages looking and acting the same, which makes it easier to navigate as well as mobile-friendly.
Although most templates offered by web hosting companies are mobile-friendly, make sure to confirm this before purchasing a service or changing your current site over. Look for words like “responsive,” which in a literal sense, means the site will respond to any device it is viewed on, including desktop computers.
If you are working with a consultant or designing the site yourself, keep this one thing in mind: Keep it simple. Take a minimalist approach with menus, images, and busy or extra text. Consider what exactly the user is looking for when coming to the site. What message are you trying to convey? They will appreciate the refined experience and ability to achieve their purpose.
Once you select a web host and template, start content creation for the pages within the site. Think about content (and the entire site) from a “mobile first” perspective. Will this image fit on a phone screen easily? How long should this article about wood floor maintenance be so users don’t have to scroll endlessly? Does this image gallery work on a mobile device?
Putting an extra-large logo on the home page? No, thank you. Putting a story about a recent job refinishing a hardwood floor with a beautiful photo that fits on the page? Yes, please!
If you build it
New devices and ways to access the internet are emerging all the time. Launching a mobile site is a best practice in website marketing, and it is possible that simply by
building this, visitors will find your site more easily; however, there is more to be done.
Take a car, for example. Just because you purchase a nice car does not mean you will always get from point A to point B without ongoing effort. You have to fill the car with gas, perform regular maintenance, and even replace it occasionally.
Your website is the same. Feed it content, watch the metrics for indications that something needs to change, keep testing the site, and continue to analyze the effectiveness compared to other websites.
Your site is the front door of your business for internet users – and they are increasingly finding that door on their mobile phone. Having a mobile site is not only about keeping up with the competition; it is about evolving and staying relevant to any and all possible customers.
Jodi O’Toole is Director of IT and Web Development at the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.