November 15, 2011
Smart phones and tablet computers are ever more popular with consumers, but entrepreneurs have been slow to respond. In fact, only 8% of small and medium-sized businesses that have websites have adapted them for use on mobile platforms. If your clients are mobile, it’s time for you to act.
Tablets and smart phones aren’t just a caprice of the younger generation, says BDC Consultant Robert Hyde. They are here to stay. One-third of Canadian mobile phone users have a smart phone and 5% also own a tablet, according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. And the numbers are growing.
People are now going online from anywhere. They are using mobile devices to find businesses, buy products and connect to social media platforms. Optimizing your website for mobile allows customers to reach your company wherever they are.
Here are some tips about optimizing your website for mobile devices.
- Adapt to Change.
There is software that will take your existing website and automatically adapt it for mobile. But Hyde says a better option is to create a new simplified version of your site for mobile. You can equip your existing site to detect which type of device is trying to access it and direct the visitor automatically to either your traditional site or the mobile version. The following tips are for creating the mobile site.
- Think small.
The first thing to keep in mind is the size of mobile screens. Information needs to be short, clear and well structured. “You can’t fit text on a smart phone screen that looks good unless you optimize it,” Hyde says.
- Keep it simple.
Avoid big photos because they are going to take a lot of time to load. Also, cut down the use of tables and long lists. “Don’t focus on complicated design elements,” Hyde says. “Content should really be brought down to giving people what they need.”
- Avoid Flash.
One rule of thumb is to avoid Flash, since iPads and iPhones don’t support it. Hyde recommends the use of HTML 5—a language for structuring the feel and look of a website that substitutes a lot of the effects of Flash.
- The touch element.
Remember there will be a lot of people navigating your new site by touch. Make sure links are not placed too closely one to another. The buttons should be the size of a fingertip to ease browsing.
- Test. Test. Test.
Hyde says that one of the major pitfalls to avoid is working on your mobile website without a plan and focusing on one device only. “You have to test your website on multiple devices and operating systems. Think about everything that’s out there, BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Windows.”
Make sure your website looks good both in landscape and picture view, depending on how the user is looking at the phone or tablet.
- Get help.
“It’s not that simple to do a good job when optimizing a website. You need someone who is familiar with mobile technology,” Hyde says. BDC Consulting can help.
Going mobile isn’t only about design optimization. It’s also about figuring out how to reach out to customers on the go.
“Most entrepreneurs don’t have a good understanding of the impact mobile technology can have on their businesses,” Hyde says. “Young people almost don’t use laptops anymore to go online. This is becoming a new world that entrepreneurs need to get into.”
Make the right decision