Remember how, a few short years ago, everyone would tell you; if you don’t have a website, you’re doing your business a disservice? How a website is essential to gaining a whole new market, a wider audience of people willing to buy your products or order your services? Consider all of that advice, all of the reasoning you heard back then, and apply it now. If you don’t have a mobile website, you’re losing traffic.
Why You Need Mobile
• Mobile is the single fastest-growing communications channel of all time. Technology is evolving at a pace that guarantees nothing but growth until the next step in tech appears, which could very well be wearable Google Glass-style mobile devices.
• Mobile is immediate. Every time you’re out driving and have a question, you can turn to mobile for an answer. If your business isn’t available among those answers, you lose out.
• Mobile is an SEO factor. Google likes sites that are aware of mobile users and cater to their needs. Two identical sites, one with a mobile version and one without, will see the mobile-enabled site pulling ahead in search ranking.
• Mobile is easy. Some content management systems offer nearly instant mobile conversions. Others may take a bit more effort, but they’re such a standard now that it’s easy to make them.
• Your competitors probably have a mobile site. If they do, you’re falling behind and need to play catch-up with a mobile site of your own. If they don’t, it’s a fantastic opportunity to put them at a disadvantage.
Static Vs Responsive
There are two main schools of thought regarding mobile sites. You can use the static design or the responsive design.
The static design is typically located on a subdomain of the main site. For example, your site, www.example.com, would have a mobile site located at www.m.example.com. This has a few benefits and a few drawbacks. Beneficially, it’s a separate site that allows you to maintain a complete, up to date mobile version of your site. If you want to redesign your mobile site but leave your main site alone, you would need a static design. However, if you want to update both designs, you will need to invest twice as much time and energy to making sure they both work. Static designs also have the potential issue of not working on some mobile devices. Thankfully, as long as your product information is called from a remote source, you don’t need to maintain two databases of information.
Responsive design is a little different. It monitors the screen resolution of the device being used to browse the page. If it’s above a certain size, the full site is displayed. As the size of the browser shrinks, the page dynamically removes some more complex items, paring down the page until it’s suitable for mobile display. You can see this in practice on a basic level on the Boston Globe’s website; as you resize your web browser, the information displayed shrinks dynamically. Responsive designs are more intensive to develop and maintain, but they don’t require separate domains and thus separate SEO.
Most of the time, your best option is the responsive design. How do you go about making a mobile version of your site?
The absolute easiest way to make a mobile version of your site is through a conversion tool such as bMobilized. bMobilized is a low-cost service that generates a simple static version of your page to use as a mobile site. It’s one of several such services – don’t feel railroaded into this particular company – and the quality isn’t precisely what you would get with more expensive options. However, it’s serviceable if all you need is a quick, basic, easy setup for a mobile site that has the basics covered.
Automatic software like this generally requires that you add their code to your site, and usually has a monthly fee attached. There’s an additional fee for full support and design work, or you can do the configuration on your own. Generally, this won’t be your ideal long-term solution; it’s good for filling the gap now while you invest in a higher quality design later.
A Responsive Redesign
The most highly recommended option, and the one you should probably investigate next time you do a site redesign, is a responsive site. As mentioned above, it has a lot of perks. It works no matter what the resolution of the device viewing the site happens to be, which means it covers all range of mobile devices, from old cell phones to brand new tablets.
There are two primary drawbacks to a responsive design; it requires a total site redesign, and it’s generally expensive. The first drawback can’t be avoided; you’re going to need to rebuild your site from the ground up, at least as far as code is concerned. It might look more or less the same when you’re done with it, but it will function completely differently. The second drawback is mitigated somewhat by the traffic you may be losing by not having a mobile design. It’s also possible to shop around and find a trustworthy design firm that will handle a responsive design without a huge expense.
A Mobile App
Another possible solution is to use an app for your mobile devices. This involves some simple setup on your website; detect incoming mobile users and direct them to the app download page. The app itself, however, will require creation from scratch, with all of the expense attached.
Apps aren’t the best solution for general use sites, blogs, forums and other such sites. If, however, users typically come to your site for one or a small handful of specific reasons, it might be ideal to design an app that allows them to do those things quickly and easily. For example, a postal app that allows package tracking would be useful, moreso than a full postal service website. An airline would be best advices to create an app that checks schedules, searches for flights and can book tickets.
You can create a hybrid solution as well. Offload all of the task-specific actions to an app, while creating a static site for your page that maintains blog posts and other more general knowledge information.
With these options available, there’s something to suit your budget no matter what it may be. Go small scale with a basic app, or invest in a complete redesign with responsive code and an app alongside. The choice is yours, but it’s a choice you need to make.